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Federer sets up revenge clash with Tsitsipas in Dubai - and a big chance to win his 100th title

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 1 Mar 2019
  • Roger Federer will have a chance to avenge his Australian Open defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Dubai
  • Tsitsipas expects 'fired-up' Federer: 'For him, that loss was a big thing.'
  • Federer can claim his 100th career title with a win in Saturday's Dubai final
Roger Federer celebrates victory over Borna Coric in Dubai (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Roger Federer sets up a chance to get revenge on Stefanos Tsitsipas - and claim his one-hundredth title to boot - in Dubai.

Seven-time Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner Roger Federer booked his place in a tenth final at the 500-level event when he beat Borna Coric 6-2, 6-2 in Friday's semifinals - but there's more on the line than just another trophy.

Federer will win the one-hundredth ATP Tour-level title of his glittering career if he defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas in Saturday's final, and he also has the opportunity to avenge his defeat to Tsitsipas at the Australian Open.

Tsitsipas, at least, has no doubt that revenge will be on Federer's mind.

'I'm sure he'll be pumped up,' the world no. 11 said. 

'It's not easy. It's not easy for both of us. He obviously wants to beat me. For him, that loss was a big thing. I'm pretty sure he will come inside the court fired up, wanting to take a revenge from me.'

Federer took a more relaxed view of the forthcoming clash as he spoke to the on-court interviewer immediately following his thrashing of Coric.

'We played the first time at the Hopman Cup in Jan and then right away again at the Australian Open, I won the first, he won the second, so yeah, I' like to win the third one, to be quite honest,' he said.

Regardless of the intensity with which Federer will be pursuing revenge in Saturday's final, his manner of booking a place in said final couldn't have been more calm and focused - and the one-sided nature of his match more of a contrast with the first semifinal.

Tsitsipas battled for three hours exactly to subdue Gael Monfils, snapping the French player's winning streak at eight matches while extending his own winning streak to the same amount with a 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4) victory. Afterwards he spoke of feeling that his body might 'crack' if he tried to run down too many balls.

It's the Greek player's fourth event since reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open, and he has played a tournament each week of this month; Federer, in contrast, has not played since his fourth-round defeat in Melbourne. The rust has been evident where the world no. 7 is concerned, with Federer dropping sets to Philipp Kohlschreiber and Fernando Verdasco and struggling past Marton Fucsovics, albeit in straight sets. But he played by far his best and crispest match of the week on Friday against Coric, taking just 68 minutes to defeat the Croatian.

'It's great, I'm very happy, to say the least. It's been a great tournament so far,' Federer said. 

'Same for Borna too, he won three matches 7-6 in the third so I think he was a bit tired today and I was maybe the guy who could profit from it. But I think  I played a really good match again in sort of tough conditions so, no, I'm incredibly excited to be back in another finals here in Dubai.'

The victory looks even better (and Saturday's final more ominous for Tsitsipas) when one considers the context - in particular, the fact that Coric had won his last two matches against Federer, beating him in the Halle final and the semifinals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters in 2018.

Federer in action (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Federer gleefully deployed the drop-shot as he ran Coric all over the court.

'I like to play some drop shots today, maybe check Borna out,' Federer said, 'and that worked very well. 

'It's always tricky to play them in the wind as they tend to fly off the racquet a bit strangely in the wind but you know, as you go deeper in the tournament you can play closer to the lines, you have more rhythm, you know how the ball's flying, how close, how much spin you need to put on the ball. All these things fall into place and, you know, it was a good match for me here tonight and I hope I can keep it up against Tsitsipas tomorrow, it would be great.'

Reaching the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final hasn't just put Tsitsipas into the top 10 from Monday - the first Greek man to rise so high - but will mean that Federer will return to the top five in next week's rankings, and should receive a top-four seeding for the Indian Wells Masters due to the absence of defending champion Juan Martin del Potro. This will guarantee Federer can't face world no. 1 Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Alexander Zverev before the semifinals.

Federer will have to like his chances of picking up title no. 100 - something he would be just the second player in the Open Era to do, after Jimmy Connors who won 109 singles titles in his career - against a tired Tsitsipas. But if he is privately salivating at the thought of revenge, he publicly paid tribute to the fast-improving 20-year-old.

'Credit to him for backing it up after Australia, and going on to play the semis after he beat me and then he also won Marseille last week,' Federer said. 

'And now again tonight he played an unbelievably tough match against Monfils, it was thrilling for me to watch, I enjoyed it as a fan. I'm looking forward to playing against him, he's really made major improvement the last few years and I'm sure we'll see so much more of him so I'm happy to be playing against him tomorrow in the finals.'

Federer and Tsitsipas face off at 7pm local/3pm GMT on Saturday.

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Federer sets up revenge clash with Tsitsipas in Dubai - and a big chance to win his 100th title

Roger Federer will have an opportunity to avenge his Australian Open loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and a chance to win his 100th career title, as he faces the Greek in Saturday's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final

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