Berdych into Dubai quarters
Dubai - Tomas Berdych's determined journey into the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open has enhanced his chances of reaching the final for a second successive year - but he has a clear target in mind.
The world number six from the Czech Republic is the only top 10 player not to have won a title last year, although an overwhelming 6-2, 6-1 victory over Sergiy Stakhovsky on Wednesday hinted how his chances of remedying that early this year are improving.
Berdych has lost only 10 games in four sets in Dubai, his steep serve and fierce forehands from many positions almost always imposing, and the win was his 13th in 14 matches.
Although Stakhovsky, conqueror of Roger Federer at Wimbledon, attempted to mix things up with occasional drops and increasingly frequent serve-volleys, he did not get the ingredients in the right proportions and appeared increasingly fatalistic about the outcome.
The Ukrainian's only glimpse of success came with a surprising break-back to 2-3 when Berdych seemed to suffer from bizarrely negative visualisation after a Hawkeye appeal.
Even though that proved successful -- showing that a forehand drive called out had comfortably caught the line -- Berdych unaccountably missed with his next two forehands when he was not under undue pressure.
However, he dismissed most of Stakhovsky's attempts to disrupt his rhythm, and with the disappearance of the second-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro from his half of the draw, he undoubtedly hopes to survive until Saturday's showdown again.
But Berdych was far from satisfied.
"I am glad I am keeping a high level, as consistency was always the quality I wanted to bring to my game," he said. "But the question of my first serve stats - I am not afraid to call it a disaster."
This self-critical response to the congratulations offered for his losing only five points on his first serves so far this tournament, omitted the fact that only 37 percent of them in this match had actually landed in.
"It's not a nice number," Berdych said bluntly. "That will be my focus for the next match."
That will be against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the fifth-seeded Frenchman, who rushed from contesting the final in Marseille on Sunday to be here, and was therefore particularly pleased to have received a day's rest, because Nikolay Davydenko, the former world number three from Russia, withdrew with a rib injury.
One who has travelled even further is Malek Jaziri, the wild card player from Tunisia, who won a second time, now by 6-3, 7-5 against Somdev Devvarman, the Indian who won the only set of the match against Del Potro.
"I arrived here, long trip, 24?hours, three planes, was not easy to arrive Sunday night. I was afraid if I could play one set, to keep playing one set!" said Jaziri, apparently a reference to emulating Del Potro's retirement.
"Then I'm in quarterfinals, so I'm very happy and I will try to recover as I can to be ready tomorrow."
He will play Philipp Kohlschreiber, the seventh seeded German.
Another who caused one of Wimbledon's biggest upsets fared better. Lukas Rosol, the Czech who ousted Rafa Nadal there in 2012, now beat the eighth-seeded Dmitry Tursunov by 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), the hot sunshine and quickening conditions suiting his uncompromising, high-risk ground strokes.
Results from the third day of the ATP Dubai Open on Tuesday (x denotes seeding):
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x5) bt Nikolay Davydenko (RUS), w.o.
Malek Jaziri (TUN) bt Somdev Devvarman (IND) 6-3, 7-5
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER x7) bt Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-3, 6-3
Lukas Rosol (CZE) bt Dmitry Tursunov (RUS x8) 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)
Mikhail Youzhny (RUS x6) bt James Ward (GBR) 6-1, 7-6 (7/3)
Tomas Berdych (CZE x3) bt Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-2, 6-1