ATP 500Dubai Duty Free Tennis ChampionshipsRoger Federer

Federer Falls to Donskoy in Dubai

A big upset at the Aviation Club as Roger Federer came unstuck against World Number 116 Evgeny Donskoy to bow out in the second round.

The Russian qualifier saved three match points to win through 3-6 7-6 (7) 7-6 (5) to make the Quarter Finals. As I alluded to in my previous post, Donskoy has a decent flat forehand, and it was that shot that helped him tonight as he recovered from a break in the third and 1-5 down in the tie-break to come through in exactly 2 hours.

Quick Match Recap

Federer volley Donskoy Dubai

Donskoy won the toss and elected to receive. Roger held to 30. Donskoy levelled, but Fed reeled off 12 points in a row to lead 3-1. That was soon 5-1, and although Donskoy recouped one break of serve, Roger served it out 6-3 in 29 minutes.

Into set 2 and Donskoy’s level went up a notch with Federer’s dropping slightly. Still, the set went on serve with both guys holding comfortably. After a brief delay for one of the floodlights failing Roger had to save a set point at 4-5. He did, and the set was soon into a tie-break.

Into the break and Roger took the initiative moving up 5-2. He then held two match points at 6-4, and a third at 7-6 but each time didn’t make the right choice, and Donskoy stole it 9-7.

You still fancied Federer in the decider, and after holding serve comfortably for a 3-2 lead, he broke for 4-2. It was consolidated to love and at 5-4 Roger served for the match but was broken to 30. Donskoy then held and broke which meant he would serve for it. 2 excellent points gave Fed 0-30, and the Russian quickly lost focus to drop serve. Another tie-break ensued.

Again Federer was able to gain an early advantage, moving into a 5-1 lead. But similarly to the second set tie breaker, more questionable decision making gave Donskoy a lifeline, and he rattled off 6 points in a row to take it 7-5 and record his biggest career victory.

Match Stats

Roger Federer Evgeny Donskoy
Aces 12 6
Double Faults 2 3
First Serve Percent 73%(80/109) 48%(46/95)
1st Serve Points Won 74%(59/80) 76%(35/46)
2nd Serve Points Won 52%(15/29) 59%(29/49)
Break Points Saved 25%(1/4) 20%(1/5)
Service Games Played 17 16
1st Serve Return Points Won 24%(11/46) 26%(21/80)
2nd Serve Return Points Won 41%(20/49) 48%(14/29)
Break Points Converted 80%(4/5) 75%(3/4)
Return Games Played 16 17
Winners 38 28
Unforced Errors 31 17
Total Service Points Won 68%(74/109) 67%(64/95)
Total Return Points Won 33%(31/95) 32%(35/109)
Total Points Won 51%(105/204) 49%(99/204)
SABR 0 0


Thoughts on the Match

Federer Dubai 2017 2nd Round

A weird one to judge as Roger could have won in straight sets and should have won in three, but somehow ended up losing πŸ™‚

I thought he played ok for the most part (forehand and return a bit too inconsistent) but made the wrong decisions at the worst possible times. One of those days where on the big points he wasn’t able to find the right plays – botched volley in the second set breaker, serving into Donny’s forehand strike zone on match point and just generally giving the Russian a second bite of the cherry on too many occasions.

It probably doesn’t help they have never played before, but regardless Roger wasn’t ‘on it’ like he needed to be and that’s why he leaves the tournament early.

As for Donskoy, he is a decent player on his day (check highlights vs. Murray in Indian Wells), so it’s not a total surprise he was right in the mix on a fast court. He hits flat and can win points with just 1 or 2 shots thanks to his forehand which Roger chose to go into time and time again πŸ˜†

Anyway, not a loss you can read too much into as there are a lot of factors at play – under practised due to the leg, quick conditions that level the playing field and there was always going to be a comedown post-Australia, it was just a case of when not if. It turns out it’s in Dubai, so it will be interesting to see what happens on the hardcourts in North America later this month.

What did you guys make of the match? Let me know in the comments.


Editor of Perfect Tennis and a big fan of Roger Federer, I've spent countless hours watching and analysing his matches. Alongside playing the sport, I also enjoy writing about the tour, rackets, strings, and the technicalities of the game. Whether it's breaking down the latest tournament results or discussing the latest gear innovations, I'm always eager to share my insights with fellow tennis enthusiasts.

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    1. Sorry, this is really weird. Is it just me? I was clicking and clicking on the “Follow Me” down below to get onto Jon’s Twitter account, but nothing. Saw the new post was up (bottom right) and tried clicking on the link but again nothing happened: I actually had to type the URL into the bar to get here at all.

      Anyway, I’m not totally surprised here: had a nasty feeling while watching the second set scores that something was going to go awry – and Roger’s set 2 stats were pretty dreadful, so much so that I wondered if he was injured and just serving his way out of trouble but unable to go for returns.

      1. Thanks to all, and Jon of course – was also clicking and clicking and wondering…a consolation not only me, but some several affecting plugin. Missed you all. Was annoyed – but hopefully now fixed. Use Safari
        Hopefully Roger will be fixed soon too. Reading all this, and Roger’s presser, at least I’m fixed now again! Thanks again!

  1. Jon, I am in disbelief . What made him keep serving to the guys forehand. He lost the points going,thereally many times. Strange match!!!

    1. Haha dunno, preferred serve and stubborn? I guess it’s highlighted by the fact Donskoy made 2 of his best returns on big points. Fed actually won a big point serving there too so swings and roundabouts.

  2. Disappointed by the loss, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not too bad. He looked pretty flat in the final two sets … he really only got into two Donskoy service games after breaking for 5-1 in the first. Good news is that he was serving well (73% is beyond great) so I don’t think anything was wrong physically. He’ll refocus for Indian Wells and Miami and hopefully two good results there pushes him further up the rankings as we head closer and closer to Wimbledon.

  3. Well I didnt expect Federer to roll over dubai anyway, given he didnt bring enough out of himself – lack of practice , low on intensity, no specific gameplan you name it.
    I dont blame him for riding the way a bit too long to be honset, he deserved it. The loss is incredibly strange but somehow it doesnt take anything away. Not gonna get into details but maybe he could have done a lot better , maybe its the slam win that got to him, maybe he could have lost the AO and stormed pass everyone in Dubai – would anyone of us take it?? Absolutely not.

    The Guy has won it 7 times – that decent enough for now :p. One a positive note the loss puts him back on track to focus better on whats to come – Indian Wells starting in 10 days. Another big tournament to have a crack and I am sure he’ed love to go all the way. And yea like Federer puts it – more information om fitness in these two matches and looks like he is healthy again :”)

    Two things I liked about the post match press – Him mentioning “its ok to lose” yet he was disgusted with loss. # Oxymoron GOAT. ?

    Bring on Indian wells !

  4. Yeah – sad.

    But not sad.

    AO win is just too HUGE to get knocked down by this.

    By the way. Speaking of the AO…



    That’s better.

  5. Oke Jon…. just to show you how much I care about you, all you guys and the site, it’s almost twelve o’clock in Holland and I logged in at my work just to post a comment πŸ™‚ Say what?? Somehow the usual way of commenting doesn’t work???

    About the loss…. seriously…. no biggie. If he hadn’t won AO, this would sting big time, but….. HE DID WIN AO 2017, so…. just letting Roger off the hook. But… Goat, you better be back for the real ones you hear.
    And… lets try to win Rome and Monte Carlo, so we can be the first to win all 9 πŸ™‚
    And to be honest, I saw the last part and Donskoy deserved the win. Roger was… just missing Norman too much I guess πŸ™‚


      1. Haha sweet Wanda, as long as it comes true, it is Katyani Wisdom πŸ™‚

        I read a great tweet of Andreen Gallivant:
        “Fed winning Dubai and losing slam finals was annoying. I still take 2017”

        Couldn’t agree more πŸ™‚ Up to RG πŸ™‚

      1. Say Brother Jonas…. uhm…. how…. do you know… uhm…. about De Wallen???

        Hmm?? Hmm??


        πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  6. I’ll get pissed off another day. Not today. My daughter is in shreds (douche bag boyfriend broke) so right now I can’t afford the emotional luxury to get mad at Fed stumbling on his own feet though I’d love to… Argh, what a shitty day.

  7. Eh, it’s only Dubai. Usually, it’s one of those I think he would be pushing to win, but I’m honestly glad he has had the comedown now so he can get back into the swing of things proper over the next month or two. Lack of practice, not much intensity and that’s the result. It’s weird because with the Aus Open won the season is already a massive success for me, although I would like him to win a few more tournaments this year. But for this one, w/e, onto the next one.

  8. I thought he sounded like he might be getting a cold, which might explain why he couldn’t seem to find his range – random balls floating long, finding the net, way wide. He said himself he thought his timing was off. Credit to Donskoy for staying focused, keeping his cool, and a few amazing gets. Was anyone else reminded of the djokovic match point service return at uso… 2011? , I think in the set 3 breaker, when Donskoy whapped a return sharply crosscourt?

    I’ve been having problems with links not working on the site too for several days. “Open in new tab” is working for me for the moment.

    1. Tbf he always sounds like he has a cold…

      Re links there was a plugin error so it broke something. Didn’t affect logged in users so I didn’t realise. Should be ok now.

  9. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

    It was all set for me to leave this afternoon to watch the semis between Fed & Murray tomorrow. Prime tickets purchased, visas processed, leave from work taken

    And then Fed blows 3 match points in the second set, blows a 5-2 lead in the third and then…. blows a 5-1 lead in the deciding tie-breaker.

    Can it get worse than that. Its like desperately finding a way to lose.

    Well, for once the lion was the mouse yesterday.

  10. Ouch, Murli. I feel for you. I always get tickets for the 2nd and 3rd rounds at IW (bye 1st round) for this very reason. Hope you’re going anyway and enjoy yourself.

    I don’t understand what Fed is talking about. He is saying he doesn’t know the guys playing patterns…isn’t that what coaches are for. He should know all about his opponent beforehand.

    Disappointing loss with match points…too many fondues out of Norman?

    1. Even if he didn’t know beforehand, it didn’t take long to see on TV that Donskoy has a good forehand and average backhand. Fed just struggled to find it.

  11. Nothing like a loss to wake us all from the reverie & AO hangover. As mentioned better he went further in a 5 setter and knows he still has slams in him than killing himself and trying to beat who is left in Dubai. Hopefully Muzz or even Pouille he can start making it a special Tourny seeing he lives there .

    It’s a wake up and a blessing re info and a rest before IW when all will be there to compete & hopefully beat.

    Thanks for the fast write up Jonathan, helps to process the complexity of the Fed fun matches.

  12. I too found Fed rambling for a change. It was not like he was outplayed. He had match-points on his serve. He was serving for the match. He had a 4 point lead in the tie-breaker.

    I agree with you Sue. Not understanding the opponents patterns after playing him for 2 sets is kids-talk.

    But full credit to Donskoy. He understood Fed’s patterns after breaking him back in the first set and to keep fighting till the very end. Of course Fed fought back to break Donskoy when he was serving for the match.

    Even if I was not going to watch, I would still say this is probably the craziest match ever played by Fed, even worse than the one he lost to Tsonga once after being two breaks up in the final set.

    More annoying than disappointing

      1. i aborted my travel plans as there was no point in driving all the way from Muscat to Dubai to watch a non-Fed semifinal.

        And I heard lots of people were trying to sell their tickets, so there is virtually no chance of selling even at a much reduced price.

        No Fed and the tournament has lost its mojo.

  13. I have problem entering chat room yesterday, tried a few times until i totally gave up. Even clicking ‘Home’ is a problem. Not sure what happen here, please do pull a Trump on me :-p

    About the match, I hate to say this but think Roger still in his little bubble and a bit overconfident. He looks totally unprepared, not connecting his shots and played poor during key points. Maybe lack of practice or other factors with his body, can’t tell. Kudos to Donskoy for not folding and continue to fight till the last point. Maybe this is will wake up Roger from his AO slumber-party.

  14. I’m sorry for you Mulri. I think many of us here would have the similar experience of missing him in a tournament like this. I hope you enjoy some tennis anyway

  15. Am I imagining it, or is Roger struggling more against people he’s never played against than he used to?

  16. Hard to feel too disappointed by this after the AO triumph. He’s been chasing after that elusive 18th slam for so long, maybe he’s a bit mentally discharged now, and who could blame him for that. Hopefully that hunger comes back in a while, but as a fan it’s really hard to ask for more. Still, this was a great opportunity for another title this season, as the conditions in Dubai are probably ideal. There just aren’t many fast courts like this anymore. Wonder if more tournaments will buck the trend after AO.

    1. Shanghai supposedly the quickest last year. IW usually slow ish but thin air. Miami quicker surface but humid. Pretty much clay now until grass.

  17. I’ve only had a look at a briefest highlight. What it struck me was that at the 2nd match point during the first TB, Roger volleyed a guaranteed match winner straight back to the guy at the middle court! I thought 99% out of 100% times Roger would put that ball away. A couple of cm either side of the court, the match should have been over right there. Then, realising that IW will start on 7th, which seems very nearby? conspiracy? folks?

  18. Strange loss, but doesn’t bother me at all. Not this year of all years, anyway. Have fun playing tennis this year, Fed!

  19. Still not wholly recovered mentally or physically from AO. Huge huge ask to win it, euphoria drains you totally.. then the endless celebrations with Norman, the tiring Laver Cup travel, media fest. Cld easily hv missed Dubai and no one wld hv batted an eyelid..but he is loyal and missed last yr. Had already said he was not a fav; poor prep as a result, and as he said, sluggish and not in a committed mindset! So what happens? To his surprise… over and out!
    I am interested in IW and Miami form because I don’t feel he will play much if any clay, so will he all out for next 3 weeks to get ranking up? And then take longer break before RG ( and maybe Madrid) and grass.. we shall see…

  20. Ps that crazy TB between Kohli and Muzz! 7 MP’s and of course Kohli fails to put match away.. smh!!

  21. is it possible Rog is unaware that deep down he’s satisfied and its jusy gonna hard to find the mental edge and the hunger right now?

    He won AO, #18, over Nadal… and then spent a month in the mountains tweeting with the trophy and drunk with joy like never before (he essentially said).

    How hungry can he be?

    Also… HE WON AO 2017!!!

  22. So… I see Satan lost to Kyrgios. Me and my collegues have a joke between us. For 4,5 years they made fun of me because I am Roger’s fan and I wouldn’t give up the hope of 18th. Ofcourse now they are a bit speechless, so it is my turn. Since last year July (when Roger played for the last), I told them that Satan was missing Roger so much that he lost his love for the game (aka No Roger No Tennis). So I tell them…. Be more worried that Satan doesn’t retire before my hero does πŸ™‚

  23. 2017 proving interesting so far.. lot of varying results and minor/major upsets! Fun to watch!
    Ps yes Nick!! Great win!

      1. This has been said over and over, including RF: Kyrgios is a very talented player and I second that. He “just” needs to change his attitude by 180ΒΊ, which happens to be the hardest part… which is why I don’t see him winning a major.

  24. Instead of being in the stands watching Fed, I am cooling my heels at home thanks to Donskoy.

    Apparently there are more people outside the stadium wanting to sell than people inside to watch. Cops are gonna be called if the people don’t leave. So Fedloss has become a deadloss for many including me.

    On the brighter side, Nick taking out Novak is a breath of fresh air. Was pissed that Delpo didn’t do it in the previous round despite being a break up in the final set.

    Want Nick to take out Rafa if it comes to it.

    1. What, to finally oust the great 3? (Well that leaves Andy, maybe. And Roger coming back, of course. Agree in that!)

  25. Today was the first day I could open this article (or any other). Could get onto the site no problem. Anyway, am not posting this to complain but to say it made me realize how much I missed the match recaps and all the comments when I could not get them.

    Keep up the good work Jonathan. πŸ™‚

  26. Well querrey takes out rafa for acapulco title in a surprising scoreline.
    So 3 of the big four defeated in a great week

    1. Yeah I didn’t expect that, decent win for Querrey beat some good players en route to the final. Murray on the other hand had Fiasco in his way πŸ˜€

  27. Murray too would have been out if Kohlschreiber had won that long tie-breaker, in Dubai.

    Goes to show that the Big 4 are pretty vulnerable this year whether at Slams or smaller tournaments.

    But it is still the older guys ( 29/ 30 year olds ) who are making a dent like Istomin, M Zverev, Sam Querrey or Phillip Kohlschreiber.

    Nick Kyrgios seems to be the only young guy making some breakthroughs at least against the Big 4.

    1. Sorry, but there’s no such thing as “Big 4”. It’s marketing hoax, just like that “nextgen” crap.
      I think that only R & R deserve that title.
      ND is a complete void outside his days-of-metronomic-play. AM is grabbing crumbs in the suction cone of the others; no posture or game style to be talked about. None of them is more exciting to watch in play than looking at freshly painted wall getting dry.
      If you go for the number of majors won, I would concede a “big three”, or “big two and a 3/4″…

      1. Agree. Let’s go for great tennis and not mainly for winning records. Then Roger for his style, and Rafa for those who like his (I don’t). The 2 remaining are industrious and very consistents competent (at times) but no greats.

      2. Novak seems certainly due a position in the big 3. His game during those years (particularly 2011-2015) was just unreal. Timing, flexibility, sticking so close to the baseline and countering time and time again was just exquisite play. Novak has some records Roger doesn’t have too (including the Novak slam or whatever it’s called), so denying him the big 3 seems unfair.

        Muzza on the other is not even close πŸ˜€ can’t disagree with that πŸ˜€

  28. Yeah Sasha has done well too. Should have beaten Nadal in AO. Fitness issues again in the fifth set.

    The younger guys are not keeping themselves fit. Milos & Kei are glaring examples and so are Nick & Sasha.

    I don’t know whether it is lack of experience or just plain lethargy.

    I don’t see any newcomer winning a Slam till Fed retires.

    1. Don’t quite agree with that, Sasha is very young, played day session (I think?) against Nadal, so heat making it even harder against one of the most physical players of the game. With a bit more work and experience I think he could make it. If Dimitrov continues his trend I can see him winning something big, he has the game and the fitness levels (proved that at AO). Then again, not sure you can consider him a newcomer ^^

      Agree with the others though, very meh.

  29. Raonic works very hard at his fitness. He has a body that is prone to injury. Appears Kei is in the same boat.

    1. Wanna be his hair dresser! Can you imagine touching the curls…

      Are you heading to IW soon? Hope you get to see our man. Good luck and have a fun!

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