Roger Federer roared back from a set and a break down to subdue Tomas Berdych 3-6 6-4 6-3 in the Dubai Championships final on Saturday as the Swiss maestro sealed a 78th singles title.
Federer had recovered from a similar position to stun world number two Novak Djokovic in Friday's semi-final and the 32-year-old again struggled early on before he dug deep to claim a sixth Dubai crown.
"It was a tough match," fourth seed Federer said in a courtside interview. "Tomas had the advantage and could have, should have, brought it home, but maybe I got a little lucky. I was very happy with my game tonight and for the week."
After beating Djokovic, Federer spoke of his need to be aggressive on Dubai's quick courts but against Berdych the 17-times Grand Slam champion seemed too eager to adopt that strategy, over-hitting a series of shots from the baseline in the opening stages.
The third-seeded Berdych, 28, suffered from a similar problem which made for a closely contested, if error-strewn, first set.
A wayward Berdych forehand gave Federer the first break and a 2-1 lead, but that advantage proved short-lived as he surrendered his serve immediately.
Serving at 3-2 down, Federer again blundered, a scuffed backhand dribbling into the net to give Berdych a 4-2 lead.
World number six Berdych's first ace of the match then earned him a set point, which he took when Federer netted a backhand return.
Federer did little to trouble Berdych's serve in the early stages of the second set, with the Czech increasingly dominant.
Two aces saw the Swiss save two break points at 2-2 but another wayward forehand meant Berdych converted a third for a 3-2 lead.
Federer, facing a third straight defeat by Berdych, immediately broke back and then held to love following a sublimely disguised half-volley drop shot at the net that had the 5,000 capacity crowd roaring his name.
"You just stand on the baseline, try to hit a few good shots and hope he doesn't keep hitting the big serves," said Federer, when asked what he was thinking after being broken in the second set.
"I was able to break back right away, which was key. I stayed calm and once I got even I started to play better."
Having built some momentum, Federer twice held to love and then earned three set points on Berdych's serve with a brilliant block volley at the net.
He took the first after the Czech slugged a forehand wide.
Receiving at 1-0 up in the decider, Federer raced to a 40-0 lead but squandered three break points as Berdych, who was on an 11-match winning streak, refused to wilt.
Federer was not to be denied, however, even if he did squander three more chances to break before a long Berdych forehand gave him a 3-1 lead.
There was still time for more jitters, Federer failing to convert two match points against the Berdych serve at 5-2 up, but the Swiss sealed the title soon after as Berdych clubbed another forehand long.
Image: Roger Federer
Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters