Roger Federer reached the landmark of 100 tour-level titles after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The 37-year-old joined Jimmy Connors as the only players to have amassed a century of tour-level tournament wins in the open era and gained a measure of revenge for his defeat to Tsitsipas in this year’s Australian Open.
Federer did not look back after breaking in the opening game as he sealed a comfortable 6-4 6-4 victory in 70 minutes for his eighth title in this event. “It was all very, very worthwhile, the sacrifice,” Federer said. “We’ll see how much I’ve got left in the tank, but reaching 100 is definitely an absolute dream come true for me.
“I’m so happy I’m still playing. It’s been a long, wonderful journey and it all started as a junior world champion. It’s been great. I wouldn’t do it any differently. I’ve loved every minute.”
Federer was edged out in four sets by Tsitsipas in Melbourne in January, which was their only previous meeting, but the Swiss veteran proved a level above his 20-year-old Greek opponent yesterday.
Tsitsipas, rated as one of the best young prospects on the ATP Tour and seeded fifth here, coughed up two break points in his opening service game before slicing wide to put Federer in the ascendancy early in the match.
Despite the prospect of reaching an important milestone hanging over his head, second seed Federer showed the nerveless intent that has been a hallmark of his career as he kept his opponent’s chances on his serve to a minimum.
There was a brief hiccup when, serving for the set, he surrendered a 40-0 lead but Tsitsipas was unable to convert his two break opportunities before firing wide as Federer finally closed it out.
It was nip and tuck in the second set but Federer broke in the ninth game for a 5-4 lead before holding to love to wrap up a memorable achievement. Federer had been on 99 titles since winning in Basel last October but victory in Dubai moved him to within nine of Connors’ record.
Tsitsipas said: “He was very aggressive, didn’t give me any time. I was expecting it, for him to be a little more aggressive.
“He just seemed like he was having control over everything he was doing, taking the ball super early, on the rise, giving me no time to prepare. It’s an honour playing against Roger. I’ve said it thousands of times, I’ve been idolising him since the age of six and watching him on TV. Now sharing the court, it’s even better.”
Addressing Federer, he added: “You’ve created history in tennis and keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing really well.”