Novak Djokovic will put his unbeaten record in 2011 on the line against Roger Federer in the Dubai Championships final on Saturday.
Federer maintained his dominance over Richard Gasquet of France with a 6-2, 7-5 victory in the seminal Friday. Djokovic beat a hobbling Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, whose thigh injury forced him to retire while trailing 6-7 (5), 6-2, 4-2.
Djokovic will look to make it two in a row against Federer. He defeated the Swiss star in the semifinals of the Australian Open en route to his second Grand Slam title.
"I lost maybe three times before that to him," Djokovic said. "So I don't think that he will think too much about that match, because he hasn't lost that often in the last five, six years in Grand Slams.
"We know each other really well. We know each other's game. Mostly in last three, four years we had matches in semis or finals. It's always high stake and big challenge."
The No. 3-ranked Serb has won all 13 matches he has played this year. Federer's only loss in 15 matches was to Djokovic. The two players have won six of the last eight Dubai titles between them.
"He's been playing well," Federer said. "Maybe a bit of an up and down performance here this last week, but he's been playing some day matches, some night matches against some tricky opponents, and that obviously makes it harder.
"Look, again his class showed. He made it to another final."
Of the two, Federer has played the more consistent and dominant tennis this week. Coming into his match against Gasquet, Federer had not dropped a set and had won 28 of 29 service games. He also had a 7-1 record against Gasquet and started strongly against the 24-year-old Frenchman.
Federer broke twice to take the first easily, but Gasquet turned things around in the second with an improved serve that produced six aces. He broke Federer to go up 5-3 and the match appeared to be heading for a third set before Federer took over.
Federer took advantage of a double-fault and several unforced errors to break back.
"Yeah, I had my chance at 5-3. I (made) some bad choices," Gasquet said. "I went to the net two times and I did a double-fault. Against him, it's over. After, we did a long point and I was a little bit tired after it. The match turned."
Federer then broke the Frenchman's serve again to go up 6-5 and closed it out with a love game.
"Yeah, I was very happy about my performance from the start. I felt I was hitting the ball well," Federer said. "Obviously should have gone or could have gone three sets, but I was able to avoid that."
Djokovic described his performance against Berdych as his worst of the season.
He dropped the first set after committing a series of unforced errors. He managed to save four set points, but Berdych won the tiebreaker when Djokovic hit a return long.
Djokovic found his game in the second set and Berdych began to show signs of what he later said was an injured quadriceps muscle in his left leg. The third-seeded Czech was seen several times by a trainer as he struggled to chase down Djokovic's forehand.
Djokovic broke Berdych to go up 3-1 and used several aces and well-placed drop shots to win five of the last six games to take the set.
Berdych retired in the third, saying he couldn't move properly because of the injury.