DUBAI, UAE - World No.2 and defending champion Novak Djokovic prevailed, 7-5, in a chaotic first set over the seventh-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny and was leading, 2-0, in the second when heavy downpour forced organizers to halt play in Saturday night’s title match of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. The match was resumed Sunday afternoon and was still in progress at press time.

A slight drizzle had earlier stopped the final by 30 minutes just four points into the second set with Djokovic leading, 40-15. When play resumed, Djokovic quickly wrapped up the service game as Youzhny’s return rammed into the net.

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Djokovic then broke serve in the second game while Youzhny, ranked No.15 in the world, continued to struggle with a string of unforced errors, which limited the Russian to a solitary point in each of the three games played in the second set before the match was stopped.

Broken serves were a dime a dozen throughout the twice-interrupted match, with five in the first set alone. Both players exchanged breaks early in the third and fourth games of the first set while Youzhny, making Djokovic work all over the court with crisp cross-court volleys, broke again to move ahead, 3-2.


Djokovic, who lost to the Russian a forthnight ago in the semifinals in Rotterdam, rallied in the next three games, breaking Youzhny twice as he covered the court well against the Russian’s furious tactical shots to post a 5-3 advantage and a chance to serve for the first set. The defending champion, however, failed to hold serve in the ninth game, although he did produce the most applauded point of the match—a cracking forehand pass to the baseline to end what could possibly be the longest and most thrilling rally of this year’s final.

Djokovic, eyeing to become the first player to win back-to-back titles here since Roger Federer won three straight in 2003, 2004 and 2005, broke back in the 12th game, wasting no time in nailing the match’s first set point by following up a sharp-angle forehand cross-court volley with exactly the same shot that forced Youzhny to hit the return wide. The Russian challenged the call, but the Hawk Eye line-calling technology showed the shot was a few inches off the sideline.