Youzhny in Dubai final
DUBAI: Mikhail Youzhny, who had to come back from the dead to survive his opening match, made his second final in succession when he reached the showdown of the Dubai Open.
The world No 17 from Russia did that with a 7-5, 7-6 (7/4)
win over a surprise semi-finalist, Jurgen Melzer, producing an economical performance in difficult conditions and serving consistently well, especially when it mattered.
It was an unusually tough contest, because shade temperatures reached 37 centigrade. Although it may have reduced his mobility slightly, it was nevertheless good enough to get him through two hours and eight minutes in debilitating heat against an opponent who had dismissed Marin Cilic, the Australian Open semi-finalist.
Melzer again looked dangerous, proving himself the harder hitter of the two as well as the livelier mover — qualities which helped him to earn the first break point of the contest, at 5-4, which was also a set point. The pressure on Youzhny at that pivotal point mounted further when he was foot-faulted. But his second serve was solid enough, and played out a long rally which ended with Melzer smacking a forehand drive into the net.
This failure to convert brought a reaction from the aggression Austrian, who made two more very important driving errors in the next game, costing him
the only break of serve of the match. Something similar happened in the second set. Youzhny was 30-40 on his serve at 2-3 but Melzer made an important error with a flat attacking backhand drive and was again unable to convert. This time though he narrowly avoided dropping serve immediately afterwards.
The match-deciding rally came in the fifth game of the tie-break, when Melzer, still the more positive but by now suffering from an increasing error ratio, pulled a forcing backhand cross court drive into the tram-lines. Youzhny then held both his two pairs of serves to consolidate the slight but crucial advantage, closing out the match before celebrating modestly. In fact Youzhny has only lost five finals, and has won five too. His optimism may have been further bolstered by having got the better of Djokovic in Rotterdam.