Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Djokovic cruises, Federer struggles in Dubai

AP, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

Switzerland’s Roger Federer returns to Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in their Dubai Championships match in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Defending champion Novak Djokovic needed less than an hour to advance at the Dubai Championships on Wednesday, while Roger Federer faced a struggle to seal his place in the quarter-finals.

Top seed Djokovic swept to a 6-1, 6-3 win over 51st-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in just 57 minutes, but fourth seed Federer had to see off a serious challenge from world No. 48 Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic before coming through 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3.

“I have done really well today from the first to the last point,” Djokovic said. “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.”

In the first set, Djokovic raced to a 5-0 lead, before Bautista Agut held serve to win his only game in the set.

The only hiccup Djokovic had in the second set was when serving for the match at 5-2. He dropped his serve in that game, but broke serve in the next to close out the match.

Djokovic next plays sixth seed Mikhail Youzhny, who beat British wild-card James Ward 6-1, 7-6 (7/3).

Federer went into his 2 hour, 8 minute match with a 12-2 winning record over Stepanek. He has now won their past nine meetings dating back to the 2008 Rome quarter-finals.

“I got broken four times which is difficult, but it’s good to win those type of matches,” said Federer, who faced eight break points against his serve. “I’m happy to get through. It didn’t look good there for a while, but I got it done.”

Federer handled the first set with confidence, but started to falter as Stepanek became more aggressive in the second.

Federer managed to rebound from 4-2 down in the second set to force a tiebreaker — where Stepanek raced into a 6-2 lead and won his first set point when Federer double-faulted.

Stepanek won the set on his third set point when Federer netted a forehand.

Stepanek also took an early 2-0 lead in the third set, but Federer rebounded to go ahead 5-2 and serve for the match.

Federer’s serve was broken when he double-faulted in the eighth game, but Stepanek then surrendered his serve in the next game to allow Federer to move into the quarter-finals.

He next face another Czech player in Lukas Rosol, who upset eighth seed Dmitry Tursunov of Russia 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

“Today was quite frustrating,” Federer said. “I had momentum on my side at the beginning, but it was tough to keep it going. After the first set I was under pressure the entire match.”

Like Djokovic, third seed Tomas Berdych had an easy path to the quarterf-inals with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine.

Berdych, who next faces fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals, has won his past eight matches.

Despite Berdych having trouble with his first serve — his percentage was a ghastly 37 percent — he controlled the match. He lost his serve once and won 12 of the last 14 points.

“I was working a little more on my return stats than on my service stats,” Berdych said. “The main focus really for the next days is to get my percentage of the first serve back and really find a nice and sweet rhythm for my serve.”

Tsonga won his second-round match by a walkover when his opponent, Nikolay Davydenko, withdrew with a rib injury.

Seventh seed Philipp Kohlschreiber was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Andrea Seppi of Italy and he next face Tunisian wild-card Malek Jaziri, who defeated Somdev Devvarman of India 6-3, 7-5.

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