DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP)—Defending champion Roger Federer and top-seeded Novak Djokovic are on course to face each in the Dubai Championships final after each moved into the quarterfinals Wednesday with straight set victories.
The world’s two best players were joined by Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych who also won in straight sets. Berdych saved 12 of 14 break points to beat Tobias Kamke 7-5, 6-1, and Del Potro defeated Somdev Devvarman 6-4, 6-4 before hitting a few balls with former Argentina soccer star Diego Maradona.
Djokovic beat Roberto Bautista-Agut of Spain 6-1, 7-6 (4).
The top-ranked Djokovic broke Bautista-Agut three times to win the first set in 23 minutes and took a 3-0 lead in the second. But at 5-3 up and serving for the match, Bautista-Agut managed to break Djokovic and seemed to suddenly come alive – going on to save four match points to level the set at 5-5.
Djokovic produced a volleyed winner to go up 6-5 up, only for the 55th-ranked Spaniard to have a good service game capped by a return from the Serb into the net to force the tiebreaker. However, Djokovic soon took control, accelerating into a 5-2 lead and winning the match when Bautista-Agut double faulted.
”I played really, really well and a high level throughout most of the match and then I had another poor game like yesterday toward the end when I needed to close it out and a few match points,” Djokovic said. ”He fought his way through and I have to give them credit for that. He’s a great competitor. I never played against him, so I didn’t know really what to expect.”
Djokovic now plays seventh-seeded Andreas Seppi of Italy who beat Lukas Rosol 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Federer beat Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-4, looking much more confident than he did in his opening, three-set victory over Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri. His serve was almost untouchable — he won 84 percent of first serve points – and he was much more aggressive, winning several key points at the net.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner broke the 34th-ranked Spaniard to go up 4-2 on the way to winning the first set. Federer broke a second time to make it 3-2 in the second and closed It out with a dominant serving game – including an ace and a final serve that Granollers returned wide.
”The last four sets have been pretty good, you know, so I’m happy I bounced back after a rough opening first set here in the first round,” Federer said. ”I think I was sharper today. I had a more, clear plan. I knew what I could and couldn’t do.”
Federer will next face Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, who beat Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-4, 7-6 (2). Federer has an 18-2 record against the Russian and hasn’t lost to him since 2010 in Qatar. But the Swiss star said he still had to be ready for a player who once was ranked third before sustaining a series of injuries.
“I’ll never disrespect a guy like Nikolay. He’s done too much in the game,” he said. “That’s why I know it’s a dangerous round next match… I know what he can do on his absolute best day because I was one of the guys that got crushed by him as well during that time.”
Maradona, who is a goodwill ambassador for the Dubai Sports Council, went on court after Del Potro’s match to give the Argentine a hug. Dressed in a polo shirt and tracksuit bottoms, Maradona then proceeded to hit a few balls with Del Potro and even had a volley winner.
“It’s a pleasure to share moments with Diego,” Del Potro said. “All the Argentinian people love him, and he’s our No. 1 representative on the world in the sports. You know, to play some balls with him here in this stadium, it’s amazing for me. He played really well, not like soccer, but he can hit the balls with me.”
Berdych led 4-2 and 5-3 in the first set but Kamke broke to get back to 5-4 and then held for 5-5. The 90th-ranked German later saved five set points before Berdych broke him to win the set.
Berdych, who reached the quarterfinals for the fourth straight tournament, said he struggled to adjust from the indoor courts of Marseille to the faster, outdoor courts in Dubai. He also complained about the intense sun and windy conditions.
“It was a tricky one and not one of my best games,” Berdych said. “I’m happy with the way it went. Just enough to win in two sets. I was really trying to extremely focus on every single point because you don’t know what can happen, what the wind will do.”
Also, German qualifier Daniel Brands defeated eighth-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-4, 6-4.