After four dominant seasons and 42 titles, Roger Federer started losing ground at the start of 2008. The Swiss lost the Australian Open title to Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray dethroned him in Dubai. Roger and Andy met in an unusual first-round clash, and the Briton scored a 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 55 minutes.
Murray was ranked 11th, and he still had to face the world’s leading player in the opening round, which shows how strong Dubai was that year! It was their third meeting and the second win for the 20-year-old Briton, who never faced a break chance in the entire encounter.
Murray stuck to his plan and overpowered Roger in the crucial moments for a notable victory. The Swiss fought well in the first set, coming from 5-2 down in the tie break. However, he could not match the rival’s level in the following two sets.
Roger lost serve once in each to hit the exit door at one of his favorite tournaments, where he won four titles in the last five years. Andy served at only 55% but managed to defend his second serve nicely, untouchable after landing the first serve in and winning 48 out of 53 points!
The youngster outplayed Roger in the shortest and mid-range exchanges. The Swiss had a slim advantage in the longer rallies (in theory, it should have been the other way around), which could not keep him in contention for longer.
It marked Federer’s earliest defeat since Indian Wells in 2007, and he was not particularly happy about it, especially with Andy’s defensive style of play. They needed just over 25 minutes to complete the first ten games, with some excellent hitting on both sides and no chances for the returners.
The set went into a tie break, where Andy built a 5-2 lead. Roger climbed back to 5-5 after a forehand error from his young opponent and saved a set point at 5-6 with a service winner. Roger hit another for his set point and seized it after a forehand attack.
Roger Federer fell to Andy Murray in the 2008 Dubai first round.
Federer reached deuce on the return at 1-1 in the second set but made two errors and missed a chance to create break chances. Murray earned his first break point at 3-2 and blasted a forehand crosscourt winner to gain the lead and move 4-2 in front.
He held at love in the next one and brought the set home with an unreturned serve in game nine for 6-3 and momentum. Playing miles below his best, Roger saved two break points at the start of the decider to remain in contention.
He had a chance on the return in the next game, but he netted an easy forehand that could have given him the first break chance of the match. Andy held after two deuces and made a decisive move in game five. The Briton stole the Swiss’ serve at love for a 3-2 advantage and served for the victory at 5-4.
Murray completed his triumph in style, hitting four service winners to emerge as a winner and score his second straight win over world no. 1! “I do not think Andy has changed his game a lot since the first time I played him, and I thought he would have done.
Andy will have to grind it very hard in the next few years if he is going to play this way. He stands way behind the court. You have to do much running, and he tends to wait for his opponent’s mistakes. I gave him the mistakes, but overall, in a 15-year career, you want to look to win a point more often rather than wait for the other guy to miss. Who knows, he might surprise us all,” Roger Federer said.