Dubai:Novak Djokovic closed up a little on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the top of the world rankings by winning the 12th title of his career in the Dubai Open on Saturday.
The top-seeded, world number three from Serbia overcame the brilliantly mobile Spaniard David Ferrer by 7-5, 6-3, and in some ways it was a slight surprise that Djokovic won the final with a little to spare.
He had not been in the greatest of form coming into the tournament, nor had he found it easy to deal with the tight schedule between the Marseille and Dubai tournaments, or the hot weather.
But having survived a marathon in 100-degree Fahrenheit temperatures against Gilles Simon of France the day before, he now showed his resilience as well as his ground stroke solidity with a gritty performance.
"It's a special night for me," Djokovic reckoned. "But it's more than that. This win in Dubai is going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. I am very happy."
Despite that the match was as strange as the weather, which had been dusty and with limited visibility, gradually depositing fine sand on the court. There were plenty of well-contested, lengthy rallies, but too many of them ended with unexpected mistakes.
Ferrer was all running, grunting, and vicious forehands, while Djokovic was two-winged and occasionally all court with his game.
The Serb let slip leads of 4-2 and 5-3, while the Spaniard looked as though he had recovered enough to take it to a tie-break, only to play a disappointing final game to the set.
There were five breaks of serve in all, and Ferrer's main consolation was that he had extended it to beyond 50 minutes and might be able to take advantage of Djokovic's exhausting semi-final.
But Djokovic had played a brilliant second point to take the final game, eschewing the changes of spin, and launching into five or six enormous flat forehands instead, and seemed to have taken encouragement from that.
He kept Ferrer under pressure in his opening service game of the second set, with decent returns and solid drives, and was rewarded for it.
Ferrer tried an ambitious inside out drive which slid just wide of the sideline and proved to be two inches out, according to the Hawkeye computer replay to which he appealed.
That put him break point down, on which he tried a rare foray the net, where he put an angled stop volley out.
This put Djokovic 2-0 up, which he consolidated with increasing incisiveness and momentum to 3-0, and 4-1. But at 40-15 on his serve, about to reach 5-2, he faltered.
His first serve and ability to attack briefly disappeared and Ferrer, with some strident, even noisier forehands, got the break back. But it was a brief respite, for Ferrer could not take the chance he had created.
Instead he double faulted to go 3-5 and Djokovic closed out the match with a spectacular finish - an ace which had been called a fault, only for the decision to be reversed after Djokovic had made an agonising appeal.
The two men may meet again in the Davis Cup in Benidorm next week.
"That will be very different," said Djokovic immediately. "Here I had a great crowd, with plenty of Serbians. There he will have 15,000 Spaniards supporting him. He will be the favourite."