DUBAI, March 3, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
In a stunning performance that lit up the Emirates, Roger Federer won his 100th career ATP title when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-4, 6-4, in the final of the ATP 500 series Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The 20-time Grand Slam icon, playing in his 152nd career singles final, needed just 69 minutes to beat one of the rising stars of tennis in Tsitsipas, who is almost half as old. Federer proved once and for all that age is just a number.
With history on the line before a packed house at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium Saturday evening, the 37-year-old Federer began his 10th Dubai final looking to become just the second man in the Open Era (since 1968) to achieve 100 tour-level singles titles, joining American Jimmy Connors, who won 109.
Federer wins battle of the generations
In the latest battle of the generations between Federer and Tsitsipas – their third this year and first since Tsitsipas ousted Federer at the Australian Open in January – the evening belonged to Federer, much to the delight of so many in this Arabian Desert city.
Before the match, Federer was quoted as saying of Tsitsipas, “(Stefanos) showed me at the Australian Open how hard he is to play. … I’m just going to try to focus and play good tennis.”
Federer did more than just play good tennis. He came out focused from the start and broke Tsitsipas in the opening game. OK, game on! Playing brilliantly at times, and with a chess master’s mentality lining up his moves, Federer kept Tsitsipas thinking on his feet. He opened up the court and continually applied pressure, moving the young Greek star back and forth across the hard-court surface. Although Tsitsipas attacked Federer’s backhand often, the Swiss maestro proved up to the task and even capped one particular 23-shot rally with a lovely, back-handed half volley winner that brought the capacity crowd to its feet. Later, Federer saved the only two break points he faced after going up 40-0 while serving for the first set. Finally, on his fourth set-point opportunity, Federer secured the elusive point to move to within one set of making tennis history.
Next, the two finalists stayed on serve through the opening eight games of the second set, before Federer was able to put together a string of four straight brilliant points on his return that broke the 20-year-old Tsitsipas. The service break pushed Federer ahead for good and put himself in the position of serving for the match – and title No. 100. Federer wasted no time in capping the historic evening by winning at love – game, set, match, championship – which closed the book on his eighth Dubai title.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 2. März 2019
During an on-court interview immediately after his milestone triumph, Federer spoke about what winning his 100th career title meant to him. He also hinted at how long he’ll be around chasing trophies. “I’m delighted, I’m so happy. It’s an absolute dream come true right now,” he said. Federer gave credit to Tsitsipas after he defeated the Greek hero, saying, “I don’t know if he was born when I won my first title. I think barely. … Tennis is in good hands, regardless if I’m there or not.” Afterward, it was announced by tournament organizers that Federer will return to defend his Dubai title in 2020.
As for Tsitsipas, the free-spirited Next Gen star, who won the Open 13 Provence in Marseille a week ago, took his defeat in stride, knowing there will be better days ahead for him. He managed to crack a smile while being interviewed by longtime British tennis commentator David Mercer during the trophy presentation. Tsitsipas spoke positively about watching Federer as a child growing up in Greece. He congratulated him on his career achievements. “I’ve been idolizing him since the age of six … and now sharing the court, it’s even better,” he said.
Then, it was Federer’s turn to wax poetically. “It’s been a long, wonderful journey. I have loved every minute. It’s been tough, but the sacrifice has been very, very worthwhile, and we’ll see how much more I’ve got left in the tank,” he told Mercer.
“I’m so happy I’m still playing. It all started as a junior world champion. It’s been great. I wouldn’t do it any differently.”
Meanwhile, in the moments following Federer’s triumph, Twitter lit up with many plaudits that crossed both time zones and continents. Among them:
• British tennis writer Simon Cambers: “Now @rogerfederer has his 100th title, can he go on to equal/beat Jimmy Connors’ record of 109? Going to be tough but 100 titles, in this era, is an absolutely incredible achievement.”
• ESPN tennis commentator Chris Fowler: “Huge salute @rogerfederer on another huge milestone, ATP title 100! 18 years to the month since Title #1 indoors in Milan. Superb today in Dubai. Pounced on @StefTsitsipas few nervous moments.”
• Hall of Fame tennis great Rod Laver: “Heartiest congratulations @rogerfederer. Winning 100 titles during your unbelievable career is a truly mighty achievement. I expect more to come this year and beyond! Rocket #RF100”
Finally, Connors, whose record Federer is chasing, chimed in with his congratulations.
Welcome to the “ Triple Digit” tournament victory club @rogerfederer — I’ve been a bit lonely- glad to have the company !!!
— Jimmy Connors (@JimmyConnors) 2. März 2019