Roger Federer survived a strong challenge from Radek Stepanek on Wednesday to win 6-2 6-7 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The five-time Dubai champion had not dropped a set to Stepanek in their last eight matches stretching back to 2008, but he looked in great danger of making an early exit as his opponent took the second set on a tiebreak and held points to lead 3-0 in the third.
But Federer held off that threat and won the next five games, and although he failed to serve out the match at 5-2 he broke Stepanek again for victory.
“It was almost a bit too late for everything, but I kind of hung around and, you know, I took the positives out of the match,” said Federer.
“Like in the first set, it was a good first set. It was a tough match because I was broken in all three sets in the first game, so you're never really quite, you know, playing the way you're supposed to be playing.
“Radek did a good job of putting the pressure on me and mixing it up. From that standpoint, it was a really difficult match. I'm very pleased to come through.”
Federer said he was helped by the great atmosphere generated by the sell-out Centre Court crowd.
“I really do feel I have great crowd support here in Dubai. They really get excited,” he said.
“The Mexican wave was a treat, you know, to be a part of that. Also the last match, when I hit the shot through my legs, it was amazing, standing ovation at the end of the matches, all those kind of things. I really do appreciate that, to see sort of sell-out crowds in the first couple of or first few days of the tournament.
“It's nice seeing the tournament grow and fans here in Dubai coming to the stadium and having a great time. That's what it's about, you know, for them, anyway, and for us as well. I do appreciate all the support I get here.”
While Federer was kept on court for two hours eight minutes, top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic spent just 57 minutes to sweep aside Roberto Bautista Agut, winning 6-1 6-3.
“I have done really well today from the first to the last point,” said Djokovic. “There was no major ups and downs, especially with the serve that helped me to win comfortably my service games, a lot of free points.”
Third seed Tomas Berdych also won, beating Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2 6-1 and he will now face fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who received a walkover into the quarter-finals when Nikolay Davydenko withdrew with a rib injury.
Sixth seed Mikhail Youzhny earned a quarter-final clash with Djokovic by beating James Ward 6-1 7-6, but eighth seed Dmitry Tursunov was beaten 6-4 7-6 by Lukas Rosol.
In a battle between two wild cards, Malek Jaziri advanced by defeating Somdev Devvarman 6-3 7-5 and will next play seventh seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, who defeated Andrea Seppi 6-3 6-3.
Just last week Jaziri was playing in the semifinals of a Challenger event in Mexico, but the Tunisian’s form there and in reaching an earlier final in Dallas attracted the attention of Dubai Tournament Director Salah Tahlak.
“Not only has Malek Jaziri played very well recently, but he showed great determination in returning from a lengthy injury break at the end of 2012 which stretched into 2013,” said Salah Tahlak. “He performed with distinction today, especially in a very closely contested second set, and fully deserved his victory.”
Jaziri was always ahead in the opening set, breaking to lead 2-1 and again for the set, but he twice had to recover a break in the second and closed out the match by winning five of the last six games.
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and operated 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 March 1.
For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com or phone the call centre on +971 44172415.
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