Dubai - Thunderous serving from former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro helped the Argentine overwhelm German qualifier Daniel Brands 6-4 6-2 in a sweat-soaked quarter-final at the Dubai Championships on Thursday.
Del Potro faces a likely semi-final duel with Novak Djokovic, although the Serb must first get past Italy's Andreas Seppi, against whom the world number one has 9-0 winning record.
“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 Argentine'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 German, 25, had been expected to provide more of a challenge after taking the world number seven to three sets in their one previous encounter.
The opening nine games all went with serve but then Brands faltered, the world number 97's netted backhand giving Del Potro three set points against serve.
The 24-year-old succeeded on the first as Brands bludgeoned a wayward forehand.
To describe Del Potro as simply a brutal server would be unjust, with the Argentine's ground strokes also proving lethal and he broke again for a 2-0 lead in the second set.
He sealed the match after Brands capitulated with a double fault.
Third seed Tomas Berdych continued his imperious form, swatting aside wildcard Dmitry Tursunov 6-3 6-2, the third seed's second trouncing of the Russian in the past week following a similarly one-sided match in Marseille.
The Czech, ranked sixth in the world, has yet to drop a set in Dubai and will play Roger Federer or Nikolay Davydenko in Friday's semi-final.
Federer has an 18-2 winning record against the Russian veteran and will be heavy favourite to reach the Dubai semis for the eighth time. – Reuters