DUBAI (AFP) - Roger Federer on Friday advanced confidently to his ninth final at the Dubai Open, and to the 123rd final of his career, by ending the remarkable five-match streak of Borna Coric, the teenager suddenly being touted as a future champion.
The 18-year-old Croatian only reached the main draw as a lucky loser, but then became the youngest player ever to reach the semi-finals here with a crushing win over Andy Murray, the world No. 3.
But Federer taught the upstart a sharp lesson. His 6-2, 6-1 win took less than an hour, his ability to mix up the patterns with slices, pace changes and net rushes breaking up the rhythms of containment at which Coric previously excelled and making it more difficult to overcome a rookie's tension.
"I remember when I played Andre Agassi when I was 17," said Federer. "I was scared I would lose love and love and I won five games, and that's how it goes. I wish him well for the rest of his career."
Coric showed hints of humour to leaven his disappointment.
"I was watching him when I was six or seven and hoped I would one day play him," he said. "I knew it would be difficult and there is more pressure than when you are watching on the sofa."
Federer started a little haltingly, and was required to save two break points in his opening service game, before taking advantage of the teenager's nerves to race to a three-game lead, before needing to scotch a brief Coric comeback.
That happened when the Croatian broke back with the help of a Federer double fault in gusty conditions, after which Coric started to rally a little more fluently and confidently.
But Federer kept up his threat to the young man's second delivery and risked plenty of rushes to the net, and was rewarded for them. It increased the pressure on his inexperienced opponent, who produced a double fault himself to go 2-4 down.
Federer consolidated quickly to 5-2 and then gained a stranglehold on the match. Two more indifferent serving games from Coric, both containing a double fault, helped the superstar to build up momentum which carried him to six successive games. After that the outcome was evident.
"I didn't know his game very well and maybe I was tentative at the beginning," admitted Federer. "But I felt after five games I knew more or less what to expect.
"I can see why he has caused difficulty for a lot of top guys, and there is room for improvement. But don't make him the next Novak (Djokovic). Don't do that to him."
Federer had to wait to see whether his attempt to extend his record of Dubai titles to seven would come would be against Djokovic, the world No. 1 who has aiming to reach his 50th career title, or Tomas Berdych, the fourth-seeded Czech who has had his best ever start to a year.