DUBAI: World number one Roger Federer scored his 15th win in 16 matches this year and moved to within one victory of becoming the first man to retain the title when he overcame Jarkko Nieminen in straight sets in the Dubai Open on Saturday.
But the 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 scoreline was misleading. Federer, who faces Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the final, had all sorts of problems with the left-handed Finn in the first set, losing his early break of serve, needing to serve to save the set, and eventually having to save three set points in the tie-break.
One of them, at 6-5 was on the Nieminen serve and Federer did well to get to the net and force the Finn to make a pass under pressure which slewed wide.
He deserved to win the first set I thought he was the better player, said Federer. It was really difficult. But I sneaked up on him and in the end it was a good match for me.
Even in the second set, it was far from one way traffic.
Federer broke at once and got to 3-0, but at 1-3 Nieminen nearly broke back, getting the champion love-40 down before he pulled it back.
Lopez, who made his Davis Cup debut for Spain in the final in November, reached the first ATP Tour final of his career by beating Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.
The 22-year-old from Barcelona overcame the Muscovite 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
n DOHA: Russia's Anastasia Myskina retained her Qatar Open title on Saturday, defeating compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a 101-minute final.
It was 18-year-old Kuznetsova's second defeat in a final in the space of a week following her loss to world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne last Saturday in the Dubai Open. Agencies