Tennis: Federer, Djokovic to meet in Dubai semi-final blockbuster

DUBAI (AFP) - Grand Slam record-holder Roger Federer earned another showdown with defending champion Novak Djokovic by outplaying Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Open on Thursday.

The mood of Federer's success against the Czech, who famously ousted Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012, was in sharp contrast with his desperate recovery from within sight of defeat against Radek Stepanek on Wednesday.

"If you want to just analyse it within like ten seconds, I think that's what it was. I don't (usually) break somebody eight times and almost lose the match," Federer said, referring to his slide almost to 0-3 down in the final set against Stepanek.

"So I definitely didn't hit my spots as well, as today on my serve. I maybe could argue that Radek is a better return player than Rosol and all these things, but still I did serve much more clutch today when I needed to." Federer did go 0-2 down at the beginning of Thursday's quarter-final, but hurtled through the next six games, striking the ball beautifully.

Federer was happy to go into the match with Djokovic in confident mood.

"For me, it was important also probably not to be out there for three hours," he said.

"Then it would have been a disadvantage. But like this, I think it was a good and quick match for me. I guess we're back on even terms for tomorrow." Federer leads Djokovic 16-15 in their head-to-head record, but has lost the last three.

"We've played each other everywhere and all the surfaces, you name it, so I think we know each other very well," said the Swiss.

"I think we always play the match-up very good, because we play explosive, aggressive tennis, so there is always some shot making going on,

"I think it's improved very much over the years. I don't need to say it now because he's proven his point so much, but he's cleaned up his game in all aspects - serves, volleys, movement, anyways, also forehand and backhand.

"I always thought he did have some technical issues at some point in his career, maybe in the very beginning of his career or midway through. He seemed to always find a way. I'm very impressed when it comes to that," said Federer.

Earlier Djokovic advanced to the semi-finals more quickly than he would have wished when his opponent, Mikhail Youzhny, was taken ill and withdrew.

The sixth-seeded Russian has twice reached the final in Dubai and might have provided a good test for the champion, and he would certainly have preferred to experience that.

Returning to the tour more than five weeks after the loss of his Australian Open title, Djokovic's greatest need is match practice.

Instead he approaches his encounter with Federer with little more than two hours court time altogether.

Tomas Berdych increased his chances of reaching the final for a second year in a row when he overcame Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and some painful sun-cream to post a resolutely-taken 6-4, 6-3 win.

The third-seeded Czech hit with solidity in the second set when confronted with four break points against him in the third game and one more in the seventh - although his burning back seemed almost as great an obstacle.

"It wasn't sunburn, it was a wrong application of cream," he said with doleful humour.

"I didn't expect to die by burning. For the first four games I was on fire - not on the court, but on my back. So I am glad the physio helped me and I survived it." Berdych, who has now won 14 of his last 15 matches, next has to survive a semi-final with Philipp Kohlschreiber, the seventh-seeded German, whose tidily aggressive performance ousted Malek Jaziri, the surprise survivor from Tunisia, by 6-2, 6-3.

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