Djokovic sets up Del Potro showdown

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iol spt feb28 Djokovic REUTERS Novak Djokovic set up a semifinal duel with Juan Martin Del Potro at the Dubai Championships after routing Andreas Seppi. Photo by: Mohammed Salem

Dubai - Novak Djokovic extended his winning streak to 16 matches after routing Andreas Seppi 6-0 6-3 on Thursday to set up a semi-final duel with former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro at the Dubai Championships.

The Serb will go into Friday's encounter with a 7-2 winning record against Del Potro and has been victorious in their last three matches, but the Argentine did beat Djokovic to claim an Olympic bronze in London last year.

“Del Potro is a fantastic player, he's very powerful and has a great serve,” Djokovic said in a courtside interview. “He likes this court, plays very aggressive, so I'll have to be on top of my game.”

The Serb had been lax in the closing stages of his second round match and he began Thursday in a similar fashion, perhaps complacent due to a 9-0 winning record against Italian Seppi.

Djokovic's first serve was rarely on target in the opening game and a netted forehand left him facing a break point, but the 25-year-old escaped with a venomous serve and eventually held.

That scare seemed to refocus the Serb, who broke immediately by exposing the Italian's limitations - an erratic serve, short returns and a limp backhand.

Seppi won just 11 points in a first set whitewash.

Djokovic dominated from the baseline, slugging out the few rallies before injecting some extra pace into his ground strokes that Seppi had no reply to.

When the world number 20 did win his first game to make it 1-1 in the second set, he was greeted with rapturous applause from a crowd who did not want to see such a mismatch playing out before them.

Djokovic, seeking a fourth Dubai crown in five years and 36th tour title overall, broke decisively for a 3-1 second set lead as a flat-footed Seppi played a forehand that did not even trouble the tram lines.

Earlier, Del Potro's thunderous serving helped the Argentine overwhelm German qualifier Daniel Brands 6-4 6-2.

“If I am ready and I'm very solid with my forehands and serve  it's going to be a very big chance for me,” Del Potro told reporters when asked about the prospect of a 10th meeting with Djokovic.

That confidence is a reflection of the former U.S. Open champion's improving form in Dubai following a scare in the first round in which he saved three match points before beating Marcos Baghdatis. He has eased through the next two rounds without losing serve.

Cheered on by pockets of Argentine support decked out in the blue and white stripes of the country's football team, he conceded just 10 points on serve against Brands in the volcanic afternoon heat.

The opening nine games all went with serve but then Brands faltered, bludgeoning a wayward forehand to concede the set.

Del Potro sublime ground strokes also proved lethal and he broke again for a decisive 2-0 lead in the second set.

Third seed Tomas Berdych continued his imperious form, swatting aside wildcard Dmitry Tursunov 6-3 6-2.

The Czech, ranked sixth in the world, has yet to drop a set in Dubai and will play Roger Federer or Nikolay Davydenko in the semis. – Reuters


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