Dubai: Defending champion Novak Djokovic will face top seed and four-times former champion Roger Federer in the final of the Dubai championships after a dramatic victory over Tomas Berdych on Friday.
The Australian Open winner struggled before overcoming the third-seeded Czech, who retired injured with Djokovic leading 6-7 6-2 4-2. Federer defeated unseeded Richard Gasquet 6-2 7-5 after the Frenchman had served for the second set at 5-3.
Djokovic and Berdych were evenly matched in the opening set with neither earning a break point in the first 11 games. Djokovic then saved two set points at 6-5 but lost the tiebreak 7-5 on his opponent`s fifth set point.
The Serbian second seed, who is seeking his third successive Dubai title, had looked sluggish in the first set. But he offered more of a threat in the second, holding a break point for 2-0 and breaking for 3-1 when Berdych netted a backhand.
Both players saved break points in the next two games but Djokovic broke again for the set before Berdych called for the trainer and had his left thigh massaged.
Games went quickly in the final set as both players held serve comfortably until Djokovic broke to lead 4-3. Berdych lost the next two points before deciding to retire.
"The problem was my left quadriceps," he told reporters. "I was not able just to serve, move to the sides. It`s no chance to just play this guy in the condition that I was feeling."
Djokovic was upset with his performance.
"I don`t know how to explain today`s match really. In one word, catastrophe," he said.
"I think the match overall and my game, it was the worst match this year for me, worst performance. But I managed to get a win, so I guess that`s what matters.”
"I hate it when I play this way, but I was still trying to fight within myself and try to stay focused and at least hold serve."
Federer had no such misgivings about his display against Gasquet.
The Swiss was threatened briefly when Gasquet broke to lead 5-3 in the second set but Gasquet then won just four more points in the match. He failed to serve out the set when he attempted a soft dropshot that fell short on break point, and then netted a forehand to give Federer a further break for 6-5.