DUBAI - Roger Federer showed an enterprising new side to his game as he beat Novak Djokovic for the first time in 18 months and ended the top seed's defence of the Dubai Open title.
The record 17-time grand slam title winner beat the six-time major champion 3-6 6-3 6-2, turning the match around with scintillating groundstroke hitting and some bold approaches to the net.
Djokovic looked the more likely winner when he got within a point of going a break up in the fifth game of the second set, but a couple of minutes later came a short rain delay.
After that Federer's game rose to much higher levels.
His increasing willingness to go forward, which earned him 11 points from 17 net forays, seemed to bear the stamp of new coach Stefan Edberg.
"There was a buzz out there tonight, and I was able to enjoy myself with that crowd," five-time Dubai champion Federer said.
"For some reason I had a tough start but the crowd kept pushing me on and I played well. It's a quick court so I am always trying to be aggressive. I wish I could do Stefan's volleys, but I work with what I have."
Later the 32-year-old was asked when he might be back to his best again, after a difficult 2013.
"Beating Novak on the hard courts here in Dubai, it's tough. This is a big step in the right direction for me. It gives me a lot of confidence."
Federer had lost three matches in a row to Djokovic before Friday and the win took his career head-to-head record over Djokovic to 17-15.
Djokovic said Federer was an eventual worthy winner.
"Even though I was the better player and I felt I was in control for the first hour or so, that was not enough, because a few points can really decide the winner and it can change," said the world number two.
"Congratulations to him for coming back into the match. He deserved to win."
Federer play s the final against Czech third seed Tomas Berdych who had a 7-5 7-5 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber, the seventh-seeded German, earning him his 16th win in 17 matches.