Andy Murray admitted he had no answer to Roger Federer as he slipped to a straight-sets defeat in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships yesterday.
The Scot was unable to repeat his semi-final heroics as his Swiss opponent racked up the 72nd title of his career.
The day after inflicting a first defeat of the season on world No.1 Novak Djokovic, Murray went down 7-5, 6-4 in just over an hour and a half.
He did secure the first break of the 16-times grand slam champion’s serve in the entire tournament, but Federer always looked to have the edge.
Murray’s serve, which had been so impressive against Djokovic, deserted him in the final, as his first-serve percentage dropped below 50 per cent.
He also won just 56 per cent of points on his second serve.
“It’s been a good week, I’ve had a couple of good wins against [Tomas] Berdych and Novak and then it was always going to be a tough challenge tonight against Roger,” said a disappointed Murray afterwards.
“He got the better of the match tonight, played a better match and deserved to win.
“I was very happy to reach the final, but obviously I would liked to have gone one better.”
Murray, who has reached three major finals, had beaten Federer in the last two finals they contested, Shanghai and Toronto in 2010, but this time his opponent was just too good.
“Winning’s the best, it solves everything,” Federer said. “I’m really happy it went so well.
“It’s a wonderful tournament to play, and to win is even better. It’s been a special week.”
Federer was soon into his stride and took Murray to deuce before the Scot held his serve in the opening game.
The Swiss also had to hold in his first service game before Murray went 2-1 ahead, sealing the game with an ace. The former world No.1 was giving as good as he got, though, and two effortless winners set him up to take the next game.
Murray continued the service holds and then carved out two break points as Federer sent a weak shot into the net. But the two-times Australian Open finalist wasted both with unforced errors as Federer went on to level the match at 3-3 in style.
An overhand smash helped the Scot close out the seventh game for a 4-3 lead but neither player was giving an inch and Murray kept up the pressure to make Federer serve to stay in the first set at 5-4 down.
The Swiss was up to the challenge and then moved 40-0 ahead on Murray’s serve to turn the heat back up on his opponent.
Murray dug deep to save the three break points and then a fourth, but he could not shake off Federer, who made the decisive break at the fifth time of asking before closing out the set.
Murray held at the start of the second set, but Federer was now in the groove, while his opponent was rocking. The Swiss held to love and broke and then held to love again to go 3-1 in front to close in on yet another title.
The Scot was not going to go down without a fight, though, and closed the gap to 3-2.
He then carved out a break point with a lob and volley at the net and took it as Federer netted following another Murray lob.
It was the first time Federer had dropped serve all week and that put Murray right back in the contest.
Federer was still playing the better tennis, though, and another break in the ninth game as Murray put a two-handed backhand into the net left the Swiss serving for the title.
He was really turning on the style now and, despite Murray saving the first match point, Federer took the second with a booming forward to clinch victory and his fifth Dubai crown.