Federer begins title defence at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

DUBAI 24th February, 2015 (WAM) — Roger Federer served up a straight sets win in defence of his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title on Monday with a comfortable 6-3 6-1 win over Mikhail Youzhny.

Youzhny could potentially have posed a problem for the six-time champion, after claiming wins over Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych and reaching two finals in earlier appearances in Dubai.

But after a few tentative and exploratory games, it was Federer who took command, breaking to lead 4-3 and then going on to dominate the rest of the 56-minute match.

“I think it was close in that first set,” said Federer. “I think we were both, you know, trying to find our range. After that, I think I started to return much better. Serve got a bit more consistent. My half volleys were getting better. I was able to get the set and the break, and then that’s when you can bring it home.” Meanwhile, fifth seed Ernests Gulbis is still looking for his first win of the year after losing 7-5 6-2 to Denis Istomin. It is his fifth successive opening round defeat of the season. Andrey Golubev lined up a possible second round clash with top seed Novak Djokovic with a 7-5 6-4 victory over Fabrice Martin.

Richard Gasquet, coached by 1994 Dubai finalist and two-time French Open champion, Sergi Bruguera, failed to convert two match points against Andreas Seppi in the second set before eventually winning 6-4 6-7(1) 6-4.

Portugal’s Joao Sousa was the first winner of the week, beating James McGee 6-1 6-2. McGee is only the fourth Irishman to play in an ATP Tour main event since 1990.

McGee discovered on Wednesday that he had been awarded a wild card by Dubai Duty Free, and he took a flight out of Florida the same evening. It has been an eye-opening experience, allowing him to practice with Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych.

“Yeah, that was brilliant,” he said. “I trained with Tomas in the morning and Andy in the afternoon. Both really nice guys. Brilliant to be playing at this level and to meet these guys. You realize they are normal lads. Sometimes you watch them on TV and they don’t look human, but they are.

“It’s exactly what I need. I’ve been thrown in the deep end this week, and you just gotta learn how to swim. It’s as simple as that. I’m just very grateful for the experience. It was invaluable. Very grateful for it.” “Roger Federer has begun well in his quest to earn a seventh title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, something he has achieved at only two other events, on grass at Wimbledon and Halle,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. “We were also delighted to welcome James McGee to Dubai and hope that the experience he has had here will encourage him further in his career.” Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships offers more top names.

“Tuesday promises more exciting tennis from the top players in the world,” said tournament director, Salah Tahlak. “During the afternoon, both Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray will be in action, and in the evening session the world number one and Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic will be bidding to win back his title.

“In addition to those great matches, Roger Federer will be playing doubles on court one and that match is free to spectators.” The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, continues until 28th February.