DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — Novak Djokovic, the world number one, and Roger Federer, the defending champion, moved nearer to a showdown in Saturday's final when both raced into the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open yesterday.
Federer set the pace by getting there in only 71 minutes against Marcel Granollers, the world number 34 from Spain, with Djokovic taking just 90 minutes to get past another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista-Agut, the world number 55.
Djokovic applied constant pressure with his speedy court coverage and the weight and angles of his ground strokes, and might have won in under an hour had he not lapsed briefly in the second set, letting Bautista Agut back into it.
This enabled the man nicknamed "Bati" to launch some hard blows, come from 2-5 down, and save four match points in a 24-point ninth game before going down 6-1, 7-6 (7/4).
Federer mixed phases where he appeared to be coasting, with moments when he suddenly switched two gears to deliver stunning winners, in a 6-3, 6-4 success.
He was also tactically unpredictable.
Encouraged by the fast court and perhaps by his opponent's frequent charges into the forecourt, Federer came to the net more often than usual. But he was curiously unclear about why he did not attempt this more often.
Djokovic's match confirmed the importance, even for the best player in the world, to keep his mind pinned down till the end.
Djokovic now plays Andrea Seppi, the seventh-seeded Italian whose elegance off the ground may punish any further lapses more severely.