Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are within one match of staging a repeat of the 2011 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final after claiming straight-set victories in their quarter final matches.
Both players advanced to the semi-finals without facing a break point on Thursday as Djokovic overcame Janko Tipsarevic 6-1 7-6, and Federer beat 2010 Dubai runner-up Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-4.
In the semi-finals, Djokovic will face third seed Andy Murray in a replay of their recent Australian Open semi-final, and Federer will take on eighth seed and last week’s Marseilles winner Juan Martin Del Potro.
Murray defeated Tomas Berdych 6-3 7-5 to end a three-match losing streak against him, and Del Potro beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 6-2.
Djokovic dominated the opening set against his aggressive but error-prone opponent, breaking to lead 3-1 and again to lead 5-1. But Tipsarevic offered a more solid challenge in the second set, reducing his errors and fighting off one break point at 2-2 and another at 3-3 as the set moved on to a tiebreak.
Tipsarevic took a 3-0 lead but double-faulted to level at 4-4, and he double-faulted again when he held set point at 6-5. Djokovic took advantage of his reprieve and two points later closed out the match with a blistering forehand.
“I thought I started really well,” said Djokovic. “He was missing first serves, didn't have a high percentage. Then in the second set, whenever I had a break ball he served well. So he was very close to take that second set. Then who knows what could have happened. We both got a little bit nervous towards the end, I guess, and it was just luck to prevail.”
Just one break of serve in each set was enough to give Federer victory over Youzhny. The first came at 2-1 when he broke on his fourth break point, and the second came in the opening game of the second set when his opponent made a forehand error.
“I thought, again on my serve I was doing many of the right things,” said Federer. “It's quick out there, so you got to be really focused. He was obviously taking a lot chances for one set and a half. Maybe his energy wasn't quite up. You know, at the end he really got pumped up a bit, but it was almost too late for him.”
Murray overcame strong resistance from Berdych in a contest in which neither player managed to take command. Murray, though, often gained an edge. He did so at the beginning, holding serve at love and then breaking for 2-0 when Berdych made a backhand error.
That was enough to earn him the opening set, although he had to fight off three break points to hold for 3-0 and another as he served for the set. Murray also held an advantage in the second set, breaking for 1-0 with a brilliant crosscourt forehand winner, but he then double-faulted to allow Berdych to level at 2-2.
The next two games also went against serve, and at 4-4 Murray held a break point that would have allowed him to serve for the match, but Berdych saved that threat with a service winner.
Murray eventually broke to lead 6-5 when Berdych netted a forehand, but then struggled to close out the match, saving a break point before clinching victory on his seventh match point.
Despite his difficulty in winning the final point, Murray wasn’t worried or frustrated. “In my whole career on the tour, I don't know how many matches I've played, I think I've only lost one match where I served for it, two max,” he said. “That's one thing I've always been very comfortable with, closing matches out.”
Del Potro failed to win two break points in Tsonga’s first service game, but won the tiebreak for the loss of just one point and then sped to a 4-0 lead in the second set to put himself firmly in control.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, continues until 3rd March.