Dubai: Roger Federer maintained a collision course towards defending champion Novak Djokovic with a testing 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-3 win over wily Czech Radek Stepanek in front of a packed Dubai Tennis Stadium on Wednesday.
Attempting to become the only player to win six titles here, the Swiss ace had to ward off a spirited challenge from Stepanek before winning in three sets in two hours and eight minutes. Federer will be looking forward to an easier outing in the quarter-finals today against a second Czech player, Lukas Rosol.
“It was a difficult match out there for me from the start as Radek can be quite a tricky opponent. He made things tough for me and it’s good to win these kind of matches. I am happy I managed to come through and move into the quarters,” Federer said.
The two players exchanged early breaks for 1-1 and Federer then broke on two more occasions in the sixth and eighth games to win the first set 6-2 in 33 minutes. “Today the good thing is that I had the momentum on my side after winning the first set. I should have taken advantage of that, but he broke early in the second and always kept me under pressure,” Federer said.
Stepanek, part of the Czech Republic Davis Cup-winning team at the end of last year, started off aggressively in the second set with an early break and then held serve to go 2-0 up. Things became easier for Stepanek with Federer seemingly losing his concentration with a bigger share of the unforced errors.
But the Swiss ace did well to break back for 5-5 and held to lead for the first time in the set. But Stepanek held serve to send the set into the tie-breaker, which he went on to win comfortably 7-4 to enforce the deciding third set.
The Czech once again made a solid start with an early break, but unlike in the second set Federer bounced back with a break and held for 2-2. The Swiss broke his opponent twice to be comfortably clear at 5-2, only to falter while serving for the match and be broken.
Stepanek couldn’t hold on though as he was broken after hitting a forehand wide as Federer wrapped up the set 6-3 and with it the match for a meeting with Rosol in Thursday’s last quarter-final on centre court.
“I’ve never played Rosol before, but I do know he has a big serve. He’s going to be a new opponent for me and it can always be tricky,” Federer said.
Earlier, Tomas Berdych sailed past Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2, 6-1 to set up a meeting with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who eased into the last eight after his opponent Nikolay Davydenko withdrew with a rib injury.
Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-3 and goes up against wild card Malek Jaziri after the Tunisian saw off India’s Somdev Devvarman 6-3, 7-5. Mikhail Youzhny too advanced for a likely meeting with top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic with a 6-1, 7-6 win over James Ward.
RESULTS (Round Two)
Roger Federer bt Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-3; Lukas Rosol bt Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 7-6; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bt Nikolay Davydenko (retd.); Tomas Berdych bt Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2, 6-1;
Philipp Kohlschreiber bt Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-3; Malek Jaziri bt Somdev Devvarman 6-3, 7-5; Mikhail Youzhny bt James Ward 6-1, 7-6