|Djokovic survived a racket-throwing tantrum to retain his second title [AFP]
Novak Djokovic retained his Dubai Championships crown with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 victory over Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in a rain-affected final.
Leading 7-5, 2-0 before rain suspended play on Saturday, the second-seeded
Serbian finally secured his 17th career title in a match which lasted over 3 hours, 21 minutes at the Aviation Club in Dubai.
Djokovic made a positive start on Sunday, going three games ahead, before Youzhny - who was a runner up in 2007 - stormed back to square the set at 3-3, breaking back after the Serb hit a cross-court shot into the net.
The players then exchanged further breaks, with Djokovic smashing his racket until it buckled after he double-faulted to put his opponent 5-4 up.
Youzhny eventually won the set as the Russian adapted better to the searing afternoon heat, markedly different to Saturday's cool evening.
Djokovic's serve was erratic, winning 71 percent of points on first serve but also making 12 double faults.
"Honestly, I did not have the best tournament,'' Djokovic said.
He again raced into a 3-0 lead in the decider and although Youzhny broke to level at 3-3, the second seed upped his game again. The Russian hit a long forehand to allow Djokovic to serve out the match, the exhausted Serb collapsing to his knees in triumph.
"I struggled for the most part and the only day I felt comfortable was yesterday, leading the first set and 2-0 when the rain came in,” said Djokovic.
"And when I came out today, I struggled again and Mikhail started playing really well. I thought the key point was keeping my serve when we were 3-3 in the third set. That was important as he had two break points.''
"It's a very mental game," said the Serb.
"People don't realise how much tension you have to go through throughout the
match. It took a lot of energy for me. Stopping and playing, and coming back and then again stopping the match last night because of the rain."
"Today was another good example of how much I believe in myself and how much I fight till the end," added Djokovic, who gained swift revenge for Youzhny's straight sets victory in the semi-finals of the Rotterdam Open earlier this month.
Djokovic collected $383,000 and 500 ranking points for his victory.