Federer demolishes Coric, one win away from 100th career title

Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Croatian Borna Coric at the Dubai Championships semi-finals. (AFP pic)

DUBAI: Roger Federer will on Saturday become just the second man to win 100 career titles if he triumphs in the Dubai Championships final.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion beat Croatian Borna Coric 6-2, 6-2, ending with an ace after just 67 minutes, in their Friday semi-final.

That put the 37-year-old into his tenth final in the emirate and 152nd of his career.

“I’m incredibly excited about the final,” said Federer.

Jimmy Connors holds the record for men on 109 titles although even that is a long way back from Martina Navratilova’s collection of 167 in the women’s game.

Federer, seven times a Dubai champion, will have a score to settle with final opponent Stefanos Tsitsipas, who booked his place in the championship match with a 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/4) win over Gael Monfils.

The 11th-ranked Greek stunned Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January in their only previous meeting.

Federer also gained revenge for two losses he took last season against Coric, who beat him in the Halle final on grass and at the Shanghai Masters semi-finals.

The Swiss star grabbed the opening set in 22 minutes and began the second with a break on the way to his comfortable win in blustery conditions.

“I’m very happy, it’s great to get to another final here,” Federer said.

“Borna played third-set tiebreakers in his last three matches, so he might have been tired.

“I was the guy who was able to take advantage of it. I’m incredibly excited about the final.”

Fifth-seed Tsitsipas will enter the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time in his career thanks to Friday’s win.

“I don’t know how I won,” said Tsitsipas. “I was playing relaxed today, enjoying every moment. “I was probably a bit more concentrated than usual. I didn’t want to give it to him.

“I was serving well and timed my returns. I had confidence going into the tiebreakers.

“I was not expecting much from myself, to be honest. I was just playing,” said the winner, who said he came to the court with some minor back pain and feared he might not be able to finish.

For Monfils defeat brings to an end an eight-match winning streak and an entertaining run in Dubai that comes a fortnight after winning in Rotterdam.

Monfils won five games in a row to take the opening set after going down a break, but was pegged back in a tense second that Tsitsipas won on a tie-break.

The Frenchman could easily have won the match had he not let four break points slip when 4-3 up in the final set, while Tsitsipas had to recover from three double faults at 5-6 down to force the tie-break from which he eventually won the match.

“I had some opportunities, I couldn’t make them great today,” said Monfils.

“I need to be better, that’s it. I need to be better to win those big matches.”