Djokovic and Federer on collision path in Dubai
As semi-final lineups go, the card for Saturday is so loaded, you might as well mistake it for a weekend at some Grand Slam event. The stadium court has been sold out long ago, but those who have been lucky enough to snag a ticket for as little as $30 might be feeling like beneficiaries of a fire sale. The top four seeds, all made it to the last four to make for a most exhilarating weekend of top notch tennis. By all accounts, the 21st Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships are proving to be an immensely successful build-up to the frenzied run of Masters Series events that crowd the calendar between now and the French Open in May.
Tomas Berdych, seeking to become the first Czech player since Karel Novacek to win in Dubai was too good for the Russian Dmitry Tursunov. The fourth seed needed just a tad more than an hour to end the fantastic run of the 30-year-old wildcard entrant with a clinical 6-3, 6-2 demolition for his second victory in as many weeks over the 92nd ranked Muscovite. In the other match of the day session, Juan Martin Del Potro was equally efficient, needing just 62 minutes to outplay Daniel Brands 6-4, 6-2 to reach his second semi-final in as many appearances at the desert tournament. Brands raised anticipation levels as he battled gallantly to 4-4 in the first set, but the wheels came off subsequently as Brands struggled to keep up with the powerful Argentine.
Novak Djokovic, who had difficulty closing out his previous match against Roberto Bautista Agut began in similarly scratchy manner in his quarter-final against the 7th seed Andreas Seppi. But he set aside the 7-minute first game as a minor blip to race past the Italian 6-0, 6-3 and establish a perfect 10-0 career record against the world No. 20 from Bolzano. Second seed Roger Federer soon followed on court to take on Nikolay Davydenko for the 21st time and the elegant Swiss blew the Russian off the court with his best tennis since the middle of January.
Tursunov was nursing a sore hamstring and Berdych took advantage of the Russian’s handicap by moving him from side to side before using his power to beat him with pace and placement. Even then the first set remained tight till the Czech earned a break in the sixth game. In fact Berdych won 8 of the 10 games from 2-2 in the first set to take firm control of the match at 4-1 in the second set, including two breaks of serve. The Czech has been showing no signs of any adverse effects from his run to finals last week in Marseille and is likely to offer Federer a run for his money in the quest for a place in the finals. The Swiss has a 11-5 career edge over the Czech, but has lost four of their seven encounters since 2010 including losses at Wimbledon 2010 and the US Open last year.
Federer turned out his most impressive performance since the Australian Open and even though Davydenko made him to work at the end of the first set by saving four set points, the result seemed never in doubt. Federer was fluent as ever with his stinging forehand and when he leaned forward to string his brilliantly choreographed backhand down the line, it felt as though the Swiss was as potent as ever. Federer eventually took the first set in 29 minutes at the fifth time of asking. The Swiss lost just six points on his serve in the most commanding display from his racket this week to set the tone for the match. Continuing to play his brand of effortlessly brilliant Tennis, Federer wiped the Russian off the court to clinch the 6-2, 6-2 victory in just 54 minutes.
The world No. 2 converted 4 of the 7 opportunities to break while not conceding a single chance to his outplayed opponent. Federer though was acutely aware of the challenge facing him in the next round – “I am happy I could play a good match. Obviously Niko did not play his best, but it was still a quality match. Berdych is a very good player and he always causes trouble for me,” added Federer. “He has got amazing power and I have always had it tough against him, right from our first match at the 2004 Olympics when he upset me. We have always given each other a tough game and I am looking forward to the match.” Incidentally, Federer’s victory over Davydenko marked his 888th win on the tour against an even 200 losses.
Djokovic had to stave off a break point and survive three deuces in the first game but that stretch allowed the Serbian to sink his teeth into the contest and inflict pain on his opponent. The Serbian completed the third bagel recorded this week – others being Davydenko and Rafael Nadal – by toying with Seppi in a 24 minute exhibition marked by typically destructive ground strokes from the baseline. The dominant win in the quarters takes Djokovic two matches from a fourth title in five years at the $2mn tournament. The Serbian has beaten Del Potro in each of their past three encounters and despite holding a 7-2 edge urged caution in the assessment of his chances in the semi-finals. “Del Potro is a fantastic player,” said Djokovic. “He’s very powerful and has a great serve. He likes this court, plays very aggressive, so I’ll have to be on top of my game.”
In the doubles, both Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna advanced to the semi-finals with their respective partners. Bhupathi and Michael Llodra came from behind to clinch a three set victory over the fourth seeded Polish pair of Mariusz Frystenberg and Marcin Matkowski. In almost identical fashion, Bopanna and Rajeev Ram lost the first set before bouncing back with an impressive victory by dominating the match tie-break. The two pairs will meet each other in the last four. The other semi-final shall be played by Robert Lindstedt and Nenad Zimonjic against Jonathan Elrich and Mikhail Youzhny.
Singles – Quarter-finals
[ N Djokovic (SRB) d  A Seppi (ITA) 60 63
 R Federer (SUI) d N Davydenko (RUS) 62 62
 T Berdych (CZE) d [WC] D Tursunov (RUS) 63 62
 J Del Potro (ARG) d [Q] D Brands (GER) 64 62
Doubles – Quarter-finals
J Erlich (ISR) / M Youzhny (RUS) d  M Granollers (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP) 63 64
M Bhupathi (IND) / M Llodra (FRA) d  M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) 46 64 10-8
R Bopanna (IND) / R Ram (USA) d V Hanescu (ROU) / L Rosol (CZE) 46 75 10-4
 R Lindstedt (SWE) / Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) d N Davydenko (RUS) / D Norman (USA) 61 64