The quarter-final line up at the prestigious Dubai Dutyfree Championship for 2015 has been set as all the top four contenders have progressed on Day 3 as world number one Novak Djokovic, second ranked Roger Federer, fourth ranked Andy Murray and the world no. 8 Tomas Berdych all came through albeit in contrasting fashion. They were joined by the Russian Sergiy Stakhovsky and the young Croat Borna Coric. The other two remaining seeds; the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut (no. 7 seed) failed to convert one match point at 5-6 in the third set tie-break and was edged out by Frenchman Richard Gasquet; the eventual score was 6-4,3-6,7-6(6) in favour of the Frenchman who has slipped to no. 27 in the rankings from a once lofty career high no. 7. Another Spaniard Feliciano Lopez(no. 6 seed) who was a runner up in 2004 & 2008 was shockingly beaten by little known 104 ranked Marcel Ilhan of Turkey 3-6,7-5,6-3.
The line up for the last eight with my picks mentioned first is as under :
Novak Djokovic v. Marcel Ilhan
Tomas Berdych v. Sergiy Stakhovsky
Andy Murray v. Borna Coric
Roger Federer v. Richard Gasquet
The highlight of the day was the Czech Tomas Berdych becoming only the eighth among active players to reach a career milestone of 500 match wins; he joined legend Ivan Lendl(1071 wins) and Tomas Smid(517 wins) as only the third Czech to reach the landmark. Berdych; the 2013 runner up (loss to Djokovic) and the 2014 runner up (loss to Federer) overcame Italian Simone Bolleli as the duo split the first two sets before the no. 4 seed ran away with the third set blanking his opponent 6-0. The final scoreline was 7-6(7), 5-7, 6-0.
Both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic registered crushing straight set wins while Roger Federer rallied from a 1-4 deficit in the first set to defeat southpaw Fernando Verdasco; the last remaining Spaniard. He reeled of five straight games and came through a 6-4,6-3 winner in the last match of the day. 18 year old Coric advanced when Marcos Baghdatis had to retire at 4-4 in the third set tie-break suffering cramps while the Russian Stakhovsky better known for his second round win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2013 fended off tall Dennis Istomin of Uzbekistan in three sets.
While the four time champion Djokovic, Murray and Berdych should all reach their appointed places in the semi-final playing against unfancied opponents; six time champion Federer will probably need to be at his best against Gasquet in a battle of single handed backhand players. Federer leads Gasquet 13-2 in their head to head and won the pairs last meeting in the 2014 Davis Cup final in straight sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@ ]