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Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Djokovic edges closer to his 50th career title

Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Andrey Golubev of Kazakhestan during day three of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships at the Dubai Duty Free Stadium on February 25, 2015 in Dubai, UAE. (Getty Images)

By Agencies

Roger Federer escaped from trouble with a remarkable 20-point winning sequence which helped him into the quarter-finals of the Dubai Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in search of his seventh title on Wednesday.

The Grand Slam record-holder from Switzerland was 1-4 down in the first set against Fernando Verdasco, the former world number seven from Spain, before producing a faultless five games of attacking, much of it launched from the net, and going on to win 6-4, 6-3.

Federer's stunning sequence began after Verdasco had held serve with the help of a startling badminton-style jump smash, concluding the game with an inside out forehand drive which was untouchable.

It took the 33-year-old less than quarter-of-an-hour to complete the turnaround, which was continued by an immediate break of serve in the second set, and during which he charged forward like an old-time Wimbledon grass court player.

"The score wasn't good but I was feeling okay so I didn't want to psych myself out," Federer commented.

"I wasn't doing much wrong. I was feeling like I was hitting the ball well. So I am really pleased I got control somehow. I didn't realise it was so many points in a row."

Federer next plays Richard Gasquet, the former top ten Frenchman.

Gasquet overcame Roberto Bautista Agut, the seventh seeded Spaniard, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6) recovering from 4-2 down in the final set for the second successive time (the first was against Andreas Seppi on Monday) and saving a match point at five points to six down in the final set tie-break.

"I'm looking forward to playing him again - the last time we played was in that Davis Cup final", said Federer, referring to the decisive fourth rubber at Lille three months ago.

"There was a lot of pressure. This time should be more relaxed.

"He has had a great start to the season, winning a title (Montpellier). He had a tough win today but that gives him a lot of match time and court time. I just love his backhand and it is always a pleasure to play against him."

Djokovic edged closer to his 50th career title with a 6-1 6-2 win over Andrey Golubev, Federer beat Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-3, Murray strolled past Joao Sousa 6-0 6-2 and Berdych worked hard to claim his 500th career singles victory with a 7-6(7) 5-7 6-0 win over Simone Bolelli.

Djokovic looked far more positive than in his opening match and claimed his place in the quarter-finals in exactly an hour.

“More comfortable than yesterday, that's for sure,” said Djokovic. “Basically I didn't have as much pressure from the opponent's serve as I did last night. Having one match under my belt helped to feel a bit more comfortable to move around on the court quicker, and I tried to take away the time from my opponent today. I tried to be aggressive, step in.”

It earned him a meeting with Marsel Ilhan, a qualifier from Turkey who won 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 against Feliciano Lopez, the sixth-seeded Spaniard who has twice been a finalist here.

Djokovic was in such good form he even agreed that it might have been the party performance he briefly gave with a belly dancer the previous night which might have influenced his excellent performance today.

"Well, my coach was there with me, so he definitely approved everything," Djokovic said, on seeing one or two raised eyebrows.

"Boris (Becker) showed some very flexible, very agile moves on the dance floor with hip?hop, with his hips that are replaced the last couple of years," he added, bringing laughter.

The four top seeds safely advanced into the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday, with victories for Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych.

Andy Murray wrapped up his 6-0 6-2 victory in just 57 minutes, dropping only two games in a match for the first time since his second round, three-set win over Blaz Rola at Wimbledon last year.

The Scot swept the first eight games against his error-prone opponent, giving up just 10 points in the opening set and, although Sousa made more of an impact in the second set, Murray went on to claim a comfortable win.

“I thought I just picked the right shots and played the right way when he was struggling,” said Murray. “I didn't give him any free points. I didn't make, you know, just sort of needless errors. He was getting more frustrated because he couldn't get any free points and then was going for more and more shots and obviously making more errors because of it.”

Berdych saved a set point before winning the first set tiebreak, lost his concentration after a disputed line-call two points from the end of the second set and then finally managed to take control of the match in the third.

“It was a hard day in the office,” said Berdych. “Yeah, it was not easy at all, but then in the end after two sets which were very close, then I took my chances and started to play finally my game and get a bit more to the rhythm, start to serve better. So I need to take the positives from the match, which was definitely the third set. It's another win.”

In other matches, Richard Gasquet saved a match point as he edged through 6-4 3-6 7-6(6) against Roberto Bautista Agut, and Sergiy Stakhovsky defeated Denis Istomin 6-4 3-6 6-4.

Borna Coric advanced after Marcos Baghdatis served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and then retired with cramp at 4-4 in the final set tiebreak, winning 6-4 3-6 6-6 in just four minutes short of three hours.

There was also success for Turkish qualifier Marsel Ilhan, who claimed a stunning 3-6 7-5 6-3 victory over sixth seed and two-time former Dubai finalist Feliciano Lopez.

The 27-year old who resides in Istanbul will now compete in the biggest match of his life when he faces world number one, Wimbledon, Australian Open and four-time Dubai champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, continues until February 28.

Limited tickets are available for purchase at the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com. 

Results from the ATP Dubai Open on Wednesday (x denotes seeding):

2nd round

Roger Federer (SUI x2) bt Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-4, 6-3
Marsel Ilhan (TUR) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP x6) 3-6, 7-5, 6-3
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Andrey Golubev (KAZ) 6-1, 6-2
Tomas Berdych (CZE x4) bt Simone Bolelli (ITA) 7-6 (9/7), 5-7, 6-0
Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) bt Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
Andy Murray (GBR x3) bt Joao Sousa (POR) 6-0, 6-2
Richard Gasquet (FRA) bt Roberto Bautista (ESP x7) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6)
Borna Coric (CRO) bt Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) 6-4, 3-6, 6-6 retired