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DUBAI (Reuters) - World number one Novak Djokovic beat Tomas Berdych 6-0 5-7 6-4 at the Dubai Championships on Friday to set up a dream final with Roger Federer.
The 27-year-old Djokovic entered Friday's contest with a 17-2 winning record against Berdych and the Serb dominated from the outset, breaking his Czech opponent three times in a 23-minute first set whitewash.
While Berdych fought back to take the match into a deciding set, Djokovic ultimately showed his class to set up 37th meeting with Federer, who earlier trounced Croatian teenager Borna Coric 6-2 6-1 in the other semi-final.
“Credit to Tomas for coming back – he started to put more quality into his shots,” Djokovic said a courtside interview.
“Roger presents probably the biggest challenge.”
When a scorching return to Berdych’s feet put Djokovic 2-1 ahead with a break up in the second, the Serb appeared to be heading for a quick victory.
But the Czech, playing in a fourth successive semi-final in 2015, immediately leveled after Djokovic netted a forehand.
Djokovic called the trainer after slipping and seemingly injuring his fingers at the end of the 11th game and he was then broken for a third time, conceding the set with a netted backhand.
The final set went with serve until Berdych scuttled a backhand long to slip 3-2 behind and a dogged Djokovic served out the match.
"Even after the first set went perfectly and when I was break up I knew the match was not over,” Djokovic told reporters.
“I started making some unforced errors, backed up a little bit, less first serves in. Then he stepped in. From that moment on it was an even match, a lot of unforced errors from my side.”
Federer may have failed to win a grand slam title since triumphing at Wimbledon in 2012 but he remains formidable as Coric discovered.
The 18-year-old, who last year became the youngest player to crack the top 100 since Rafa Nadal burst through in 2003, had high hopes of reaching his first ATP final after thumping Andy Murray in the last eight but found himself on the receiving end of a Federer masterclass.
“I remember like yesterday ... how it was coming into the tour, being able to play the players I had seen on TV,” Federer, 33, said in a courtside interview.
Federer's variety of strokes was mesmerizing as he dragged his opponent around the court before rushing the net at every opportunity for the stop volley winner.
Coric had the audacity to break the 17-times grand slam champion in the fifth game of the first set, but the Swiss was rampant thereafter, winning nine of the last 10 games.
Reporting by Matt Smith, editing by Pritha Sarkar