Dubai: Defending champion Novak Djokovic, four-time winner Roger Federer and Andy Murray all entered the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Men's Open here yesterday.
Djokovic was the last through after a hard-fought 6-1, 7-6 (6) win over close friend and countryman Janko Tipsarevic last night. His win set up a repeat of this year's Australian Open semi-final against Murray.
Looking for a record fifth title here, second-seed Federer took his career record against Mikhail Youzhny to 12-0 with a 6-3, 6-4 drubbing of the lone unseeded player in the last-eight.
That was after Murray had recorded his best performance in four appearances in this tournament with a 6-3, 7-5 win over fifth-seed Tomas Berdych.
Federer did not get off to his normal flourish, but consolidated as the first set went on with the first break of the Russian's serve in the fourth for a 3-1 lead, after which the Swiss ace held with a love game to go up 4-1.
"It's never easy and I think I played well on the service games. I am pleased with another semi-finals here in Dubai," Federer said after an hour and nine minutes on court.
Champion here in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007, Federer started the second set with an early break before holding for 2-0 and taking set and match 6-4.
The former World No 1 now runs into either fourth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or eighth seed Juan Martin Del Potro, depending on the result of their quarter-final late last night. "Both of them have been playing well of late and I have met both quite a few times in recent times," Federer said. "Either of them would do for me in the semis."
Murray reached his first semi-final in Dubai with a straight-sets victory over Berdych. The Scot had a great start when a break between two held serves gave him a 3-0 cushion. He kept the pressure on his Czech opponent and went all the way to take the first set 6-3 in 42 minutes.
In the second, Murray broke early again and went 2-0 up. But Berdych had no intention of giving up easily and broke back for 2-2.
Murray responded with a further break to make it 3-2, but the Czech won the next two games to go up 4-3.
It went on serve until the 11th, when Berdych netted an easy forehand for Murray to break one last time before serving out for set and match 7-5 in an hour and 51 minutes.
"Tactically I was doing the right things, and then maybe got away from that a little bit. But I just hung in at the end. I fought and scrambled and did what I had to do to win," Murray said.
After his semi-final heartbreak against Djokovic in January, Murray will be hoping for a result in his favour when the pair meet today. "I'd be surprised if it went the same way. It should be obviously a great challenge," Murray said.
"I would like to get a chance to play him [Djokovic] again. It would be good to see exactly what I need to work on, where my game is."
Andy Murray bt Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5
Roger Federer bt Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-4
Novak Djokovic bt Janko Tipsarevic 6-1, 7-6 (8-6).
Jonathan Erlich/Andy Ram bt Robert Lindstedt/Horia Tecau 6-1, 6-2
Mariusz Frystenberg/Marcin Matkowski bt Michael Kohlmann/Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6, 6-3
Julian Knowle/Alexander Peya bt Michael Llodra/Nenad Zimonjic 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2)