World number one Roger Federer lost in the first round of a tournament for the first time in three-and-a-half years when he was beaten by Britain's 20-year-old Andy Murray in three sets, 6-7, (6/8), 6-3, 6-4.
DUBAI — Roger Federer lost in the first round of a tournament for the first time in three-and-a-half years when he was beaten by Andy Murray, the 20-year old Briton who was a revelation with his cool attitude and his counter-attack.
The unseeded player's 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-5 win means that the world number one has not yet won a tournament this year, having lost in the semi-finals of the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
He lost the last time he played Murray too, 19 months ago in Cincinnati, when he could claim he was tired from his previous week's efforts.
This time there was no such explanation, though Federer is short of match play, and when the match got tight was not able to unleash his customary ability to produce overwhelming tennis.
"It was nothing to do with his game," insisted Federer. "It was a tricky game for both of us. One of the big guys had to go out. It's difficult but it could have been worse. It wasn't a bad match but that's the only positive I can take from tonight. I thought I was missing forehands by two or three metres. That's awful. You have it lined up and suddenly it's out which comes as a shock."
The first set saw both men hold solidly all through, Murray serving more aggressively but more often resorting to containment in the rallies, Federer serving more consistently well. But by the tie-breaker Murray was suddenly more assertive.
It hinged on three points. Murray had reached 5-2 with one mini-break and then had two chances — one good, one slight — to break again.
The first he netted an attacking return; the second he just got back but couldn't make pass.
Federer broke back at once, and held serve, saving a set point at six points all with a fine first serve winner.
When Federer gained his first set point, at 7-6 on Murray's serve he came up with a typical forehand attack, taken athletically from the backhand side, which surprised Murray.
Most people expected Federer to take charge from then on, but it didn't happen.
Instead Murray, still often playing patiently, also produced longer patches of aggression.
He broke Federer for 4-3 with two fine rallies, dominating the third point with forcing backhands, and converting his first break point of the match with a fierce forehand cross court pass which Federer could not reach.
In between though, Federer missed surprisingly with a forehand and it was this unusual shortcoming which gave him increasing cause for concern.
When Murray twice consolidated the break comfortably, and closed out the second set, the match had a different character.
Murray's court coverage had now changed from the good to the outstanding, and Federer became edgy.
He played an indifferent fifth game in the final set, delivering a double fault and missing with another forehand on break point, and that effectively did for him.
Murray was holding his service games solidly, with a mixture of tactics, most often being prepared to rally solidly and patiently, and sometimes launching fierce flat drives.
It worked, and he conceded only one point om his next two service games as he closed out the match, meaning that he survived three sets against Federer without dropping serve.
Murray took it all in a matter of fact way, strolling up to the net and even patting Federer on the back as though the great man needed encouragement.
"I don't know if it was my game style which won the match," he said. I think it was my mentality. I went on court thinking I could win, as I always have against him, and that was the key."
Murray next plays Fernando Verdasco, the world number 30 from Spain, whose left-handed skills accounted for Rainer Schuttler, the former world number four from Germany.
Three other seeds survived.
David Ferrer, the world number four, was far too mobile and resilient for Tommy Haas, the German who reached the semi-finals here last year, winning 6-3, 6-0.
Richard Gasquet, the world number eight, won for the first time in three attempts against Dmitry Tursunov, the extrovert Russian, 6-4, 6-4.
And Nikolay Davydenko, the world number five, dropped only four games against the wild card entry from Kuwait, Mohammed Gareeb. The Russian is one win from a possible quarter-final meeting with Murray.
Date created : 2008-03-04