Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Roger Federer rallied for a three-set win over Tomas Berdych to claim his sixth title at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
After knocking off Novak Djokovic in Friday's semifinals, Federer earned a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory on Saturday for his first title since last June in Halle. It was also his 78th career tournament championship, surpassing John McEnroe for sole possession of third place on the all-time list.
The Wimbledon tune-up crown last year in Halle proved to be Federer's lone title of a down 2013 season, a year in which he failed to reach a Grand Slam final for the first time since 2002.
It's already been a much better start for the 17-time major champion in 2014.
Federer reached the final in his season-opener at Brisbane, falling to Lleyton Hewitt, then lost to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open semifinals. This was his first ATP event since Melbourne.
"I've been playing really good tennis again for the last few months," said Federer during the trophy ceremony. "I'm happy to be able to play great tennis again and hope to keep it up for a couple of weeks."
The Swiss superstar has had great success in Dubai, winning the title three straight years from 2003-05, then again in 2007 and 2012. He also lost in the 2006 and 2011 finals.
His six victories in Dubai equal the amount he has won in Halle and the ATP World Tour Finals. The only event he's won more is Wimbledon, with seven championships at the All England Club.
"It's always a pleasure returning (to Dubai)," said Federer, who lost to Berdych in last year's Dubai semifinals. "I couldn't be more happy with this week, the way it turned out."
Federer won the final two games of the second set to force a decisive third and continued the momentum with an easy hold of serve before winning the first three points of the next game.
Berdych, though, stemmed the momentum with an overhead slam and saved the next two break-point chances before also winning the last two points to hold. He held a break point against Federer in the next game, but failed to convert.
It proved to be his last real chance.
Federer broke serve again and came up with a drop-shot winner for a 4-1 edge in the third. He was ahead 5-2 with a pair of match points on Berdych's serve, but sent a return long on the first and netted a forehand on the second.
Berdych went on to hold, but Federer quickly ended it in the next game. A Berdych backhand into the net set up two more match points. Federer needed only one, as another Berdych backhand landed wide.
The loss ended Berdych's career-best 11-match winning streak. He was coming off a title two weeks ago in Rotterdam and came up short in the Dubai final for a second straight year after losing to Djokovic in 2013.
It started well for Berdych on Saturday.
After Federer broke at love for a 2-1 lead in the first set, Berdych returned the favor in the very next game to start a run of four straight games.
The Swiss superstar was also broken in the sixth game and fell behind 5-2 as he connected on just 35 percent of his first serves over his first three service games. He found a groove in the eighth game and easily held to force Berdych to serve out the set, which he did when Federer netted a backhand return.
Berdych broke serve again for a 3-2 lead in the second set when Federer sent a shot wide, but Federer came right back with a break in the next game when Berdych swatted a backhand into the net.
Federer found his serve from there and was dominant for the rest of the set. He held at love for 5-4 and broke at love in the next game to force the decisive third.
Berdych fell to 9-12 all-time in finals and dropped to 6-12 lifetime against Federer. The Czech had beaten Federer in each of the last two meetings.