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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday March 1, 2017

Roger Federer

Roger Federer squandered three match points in the second set and a 5-1 lead in the third-set tie break bowing to 116th-ranked qualifier Evgeny Donskoy, 3-6, 7-6, (7), 7-6 (5). 

Photo credit: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Evgeny Donskoy withstood a lightning attack from Roger Federer in the first set and a lighting failure and three match points in the second.

Through it all, the116th-ranked Russian qualifier maintained unwavering vision pulling the plug on the seven-time Dubai champion and pulling off the greatest win of his career.

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In a topsy-turvy thriller, Donskoy denied three match points in the second-set tie break and reeled off six consecutive points in the decider completing a shocking 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5) upset of Federer to advance to his first Dubai quarterfinal.

It was Federer’s first loss of the season and one that will likely leave the Australian Open champion scratching his head by how he let multiple leads slip away and continued to test the Russian's crackling forehand.

Federer failed to convert three match points in the second set tie break, squandered a 5-2 third set lead then built a 5-1 lead in the final tie break only to see a defiant Donskoy reel off six straight points to pull off an improbable comeback he celebrated by flipping his Babolat racquet high into the sky.

It was likely the biggest upset in the tournament's 25-year-history and came hours after fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych and sixth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut were sent packing. 

The third-seeded Swiss played dynamic tennis roaring through 13 consecutive points and four straight games seizing a one-set lead after 29 minutes of play.

After a bank of lights in the corner of the court went out, the recharged Russian turned it on.

Attacking his forehand with ambition, Donskoy delivered another love hold for 4-3 giving Federer little opportunity to attack on his serve.

By then, Donskoy had won 16 of 18 points played on his serve in the second set despite serving just 39 percent to that point.

Lightning quick service games were slowed when the lights suddenly went off in one corner of the court with Federer holding a 40-love lead.

Donskoy, who was in the darkened end on the ad side, appeared agreeable to playing on, but referee Gerry Armstrong came out on court to stop play as a staffer scaled the ladder of the light post to work on the bank of eight lights that had gone out.

Fans got into the act waving lit phones for a couple of minutes before the chair umpire announced both players had agreed to continue play amid dimmer conditions. Federer held at love to even the set.

When the pair switched ends most of the lights had returned. Federer sailed a forehand deep to give Donskoy set point.

The Australian Open champion won an extended forehand exchange to save it. Federer fired his ninth ace and followed with a serve-and-volley on a second serve holding for 5-all.

In the second-set tie break, Donskoy drilled a forehand return winner down the line to saved match point. The Russian denied two more match points on a pair of Federer errors.

Serving-and-volleying on a second serve, Federer pushed the volley right back at the Russian’s strength. Donskoy made him him pay zipping a forehand pass down the line. When Federer netted the forehand, Donskoy snatched the second set after one hour, 16 minutes.

Shaking it off, Federer played more proactively drawing a floated forehand to break for a 4-2 lead in the decider. Slamming an ace out wide, Federer backed up the break at love for 5-2.

Shot selection cost the 18-time Grand Slam champion at crunch time.

Inexplicably, Federer played to his opponent’s strength, the forehand, and paid a heavy price for that decision.

Serving for the quarterfinals, Federer lined a backhand into the tape as Donskoy broke back in the ninth game. The Russian gave the Grand Slam king a taste of his own stylistic medicine following a smash with a smooth drop volley winner for 5-all.

Federer pushed a volley long to face break point then ballooned a forehand beyond the baseline as Donskoy broke for the first time snatching a 6-5 lead.

Evgeny Donskoy

This time it was Federer's turn to rally as he opened the game with a pair of winners. Succumbing to stress when serving for a monumental win, Donskoy double-faulted dropping serve at love to force the tie break.

Fans roared in approval as Federer rolled to a 5-1 lead. Surely, closure was coming soon.

Donskoy was undeterred.

Firing four consecutive winners— Including another crackling forehand return strike crosscourt—the Russian leveled then earned match point with sliding a serve down the middle. When Federer’s forehand sailed wide, Donskoy completed a stunning two-hour, two-minute conquest and hurled his racket high in the sky.

Federer, who carried a 48-5 Dubai record onto the court, suffered his first Dubai loss since bowing to Berdych in the 2013 semifinals.

World No. 1 Andy Murray reeled off eight straight games thrashing Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-2, 6-0, rolling into his fifth career Dubai quarterfinal.

Serving at 2-5, Garcia-Lopez sent a backhand beyond the baseline to face a second set point. He saved it with a shallow second serve.

A forehand hit the top of the net and flipped wide giving Murray a third set point. This time he converted cranking a crosscourt return evoking an error to take the opening set in 47 minutes.

The top seed cranked an ace to complete the first love game of the match for a 1-0 second-set lead. Murray broke for his fourth straight game and never looked back wrapping up the win in 72 minutes.

The Wimbledon champion will face Philipp Kohlschreiber for a semifinal spot. The 29th-ranked German dispatched Daniil Medvedev, 6-4, 6-4. Murray has won four of five meetings with Kohlschreiber.

Two of the top six seeds were bounced out of the tournament today.

In their first meeting in seven years, Robin Haase hammered 12 aces and denied eight of nine break points upsetting the fifth-seeded Berdych, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Two-time finalist Berdych had reached at least the quarterfinals for six straight years.

Haase will play Damir Dzumhur in the quarterfinals.

The 77th-ranked Dzumhur backed up his upset of second-seeded Stan Wawrinka with a 6-3, 6-4 sweep of Marcel Granollers.


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