Roger Federer battled back from a set down to beat fierce rival Novak Djokovic and book his place in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Federer had not beaten the world No 2 since August 2012, with the Serbian winning their last three encounters, including the final of the ATP Tour World Tour Finals.
But despite losing the first set, Federer came storming back after a short rain delay and sealed a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory in an hour and 45 minutes to set up a clash with Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic appeared on course for his fourth consecutive victory over Federer – and level their overall head-to-head at 16-16 – after wrapping up the first set in clinical fashion.
But the Swiss took advantage of a delay due to rain to gather himself, and he sealed a break in the sixth game to take the match into a decider.
The 17-time grand slam champion immediately broke his opponent in the third set and saved two break points to consolidate his break.
Federer, now eighth in the world rankings, broke once more to go 4-1 ahead and end the resistance of Djokovic, whose hopes of winning his first ATP Tour title this year were swiftly halted.
“I think I was able to play a bit more aggressively as the match went on,” Federer said.
“I knew I was in a bit of trouble [after the first set] and not looking good at all, because he has a tendency to really run with it and play more freely on your serve.
“It was just a matter of trying to play consistently but remain aggressive, sometimes being also overly aggressive to see if it works.
“Then I started to serve very well, something I haven’t been able to do really this week yet.
“I knew to have a chance [against Djokovic] I needed to serve well. So I’m just very happy I was able to deliver that.”
Berdych moved into the final in Dubai for the second year in a row after edging out Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
The Czech, beaten by Djokovic in last year’s showpiece encounter, did not have it all his own against Kohlschreiber, who served for the first set at 5-4.
But Berdych came battling back to win the next three games and then edged a tight second set to triumph 7-5 7-5.
“It was definitely not me [at the start of the match] and it was a really horrible start to the game,” Berdych said.
“But I managed to refocus and stay there, stay calm and wait for my chance, which I got in the end.”
Meanwhile, Andy Murray has been confirmed as one of a number of star names included in the draft for the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).
There remains some mystery about the event but the IPTL hopes to be played in Asia in November and December at the end of the regular 2014 season and will feature five teams based in Hong Kong, Mumbai, Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur playing home and away. Murray will be joined in tomorrow’s draft event in Dubai by fellow current stars like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, plus past greats such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
The IPTL was set up by former doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi and the matches are planned to be over the best of five sets, with each set to be played in a different format – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and men’s legends.
Murray was due to take on Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov last night in the semi-finals of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco after the fourth seed beat Ernests Gulbis 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-5 on Thursday. It is the first time the Scot has reached a semi-final since last year’s Wimbledon triumph.