By Florian Heer
(February 26, 2014) DUBAI -The remaining sixteen players all took the court on an action-packed third day at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The tournament’s three Wild Cards have secured their passage safely to the second round and two of them started Centre Court action on Wednesday. Malek Jaziri and Somdev Devvarman faced each other for the very first time. Despite winning twelve fewer points, the Tunisian edged past Igor Sijsling in the first round, whereas the Indian reached this stage after Juan Martin Del Potro was forced to retire in yesterday’s match. Today’s encounter started in the heat of the early afternoon and lasted for one hour and 34 minutes when Jaziri converted his first match point, firing back twice from a break down, winning 6-3, 7-5.
“Two days of tough matches. I tried to recover from as good as I can from yesterday’s more than two hours-game and I’m happy to gain this important win today,” the world number 137 said. Jaziri made a long jump to accept Dubai’s Wild Card while he was playing an ATP Challenger event in Morelos, Mexico. “I lost there in semis and arrived here on Sunday night after a 24 hours trip taking three different planes. Now I’m in quarterfinals, so I’m very happy,” the Tunisian told about his journey.
On Court 3 the other Wild Card, James Ward, took on Mikhail Youzhny after seeing off another Russian, Teymuraz Gabashvili, in the opening round. This time, however, the Englishman was not able to repeat yesterday’s solid performance. Youzhny took the match 6-1, 7-6 in 95 minutes.
Back on Centre Court third-seed Tomas Berdych stepped into action against Sergiy Stakhovsky. The Czech only lost two points behind his first when he defeated Romanian qualifier Marius Copil yesterday. The Ukrainian advanced into second round, saving all five break points en route to defeating Ivan Dodig in three sets. Berdych extended his winning streak to eight today cruising past Stakhovksy 6-2, 6-1 in only 57 minutes.
“It was a solid win. Today I was working a little more on my return stats than on my service stats. The main focus for the next days is to get my percentage of the first serve back. I’m usually not used to play that much through my second serve or playing a lot of rallies but today I was able to do so,” a confident winner stated afterwards. “Sergiy is a very tough and tricky opponent. Every single point is different. Slices, short balls, deep balls – it’s nothing what I really like but still I was able to manage it very well and I found a good rhythm from the baseline,” Berdych said and is still ambitious to finally win a Grand Slam tournament. “I really don’t mind which one it is. I will really take any of them. I have been in all semi-finals and played one final on the grass, it don’t matter if it clicks in Paris or in New York,” the Czech said.
On Court 1 Philipp Kohlschreiber faced Andreas Seppi for the eight time. The German won the last encounter between the two at Paris’ Masters in three sets and was in total control today as well. The match wasn’t of highest quality. Kohlschreiber set the highlights by converting his set point through a nice forehand winner and also hit a great backhand down the line shot on match point. Two breaks in the first and another two in the second set were enough to advance into the quarterfinals winning 6-3, 6-3 in eighty minutes.
This match should have been followed by the seventh meeting of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nikolay Davydenko. The Russian, however, had to withdraw due to injury.
Five-time Dubai Champion Roger Federer opened the evening session on the main stage by taking on Radek Stepanek for a fifteenth time. The Swiss held a 12-2 head to head record against the Czech before the match with Stepanek’s last victory dated back to the year 2008 in the quarterfinal of the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome. Today it seemed to get all along the expected way in the beginning. The Czech started to hit some unforced errors in the middle of the opening set and Federer broke serve in the sixth and eighth game to take the frame. The Swiss, however, had a shaky start into the second set when he lost his first service game but the world number 48 couldn’t serve the set out either in the twelfth. It followed a tie-break with a couple of close calls and a very inconsistent Federer, which led to a first deciding set in the evening sessions in Dubai this week. The Czech veteran started an entertaining final set in full activity, even dived for the ball and consequently capitalized on his first break point. Although having two game points, the Czech wasn’t able to confirm in the following. Eventually it was Federer, who gained another break to get the turning point of the match underway. The fourth-seed finally advanced into the quarterfinal winning 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours and eight minutes.
“I wasn’t playing as aggressive as I wanted to, couldn’t find the right balance between offense and defence, no transition games at all,” Federer said afterwards. “Radek did a good job of putting the pressure on me and mixing it up. From that point, it was a really difficult match. I’m very pleased to come through,” the Swiss was visibly relieved.
For the first time, Federer is going to face Lukas Rosol next, who beat Dmitry Tursonov in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 after 88 minutes. “I’m expecting a match without any rhythm, heavy hitting, big serving, taking huge cuts at the ball from the baseline on my serve,” former world number one told about his task tomorrow. “I really remember Rosol’s match when he played Nadal at Wimbledon. I was watching it and I just couldn’t believe it, how he was serving at the end and how he was just running around and doing his thing,” Federer seemed to be impressed by Rosol’s performance back then.
In the final match of the day top-seed Novak Djokovic sought his 30th win in Dubai against the only Spaniard in the main draw, Roberto Bautista-Agut. Both players met once before on the ATP World Tour, exactly one year ago at the same stage here in the desert. Djokovic won in straight sets. The Spanish world number 51 needed about fifteen minutes to find into this match but at this point, he has been already 0-4 down and nine minutes later the opening set was over. The top-seed broke serve in the fifth and seventh game of the second frame to serve out winning 6-1, 6-3 in only 57 minutes. “I have done really well today from the first to the last point,” Djokovic was satisfied afterwards. “There were no major ups and downs, especially with the serve that helped me to win comfortably to gain some free points. Roberto is a quality opponent. He moves really, really fast around the court. He always gives you an extra shot to play but made a lot of winners. I was covering the baseline really well and the surface is quite fast, things happen very quickly,” the Serb said.
Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Futures Circuit. Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.
Singles – Second Round
 N Djokovic (SRB) d R Bautista Agut (ESP) 61 63
 T Berdych (CZE) d S Stakhovsky (UKR) 62 61
 R Federer (SUI) d R Stepanek (CZE) 62 67(4) 63
 J Tsonga (FRA) d N Davydenko (RUS) W/O (left rib)
 M Youzhny (RUS) d [WC] J Ward (GBR) 61 76(3)
 P Kohlschreiber (GER) d A Seppi (ITA) 63 63
L Rosol (CZE) d  D Tursunov (RUS) 64 76(4)
[WC] M Jaziri (TUN) d [WC] S Devvarman (IND) 63 75
Doubles – Quarter-finals
D Brands (GER) / F Mayer (GER) d J Del Potro (ARG) / R Stepanek (CZE) W/O (left wrist)
T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE) d L Rosol (CZE) / A Seppi (ITA) 62 64
Doubles – First Round
M Bhupathi (IND) / D Istomin (UZB) d O Marach (AUT) / F Mergea (ROU) 46 63 16-14
SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 2014
CENTRE COURT start 2:00 pm
 P Kohlschreiber (GER) vs [WC] M Jaziri (TUN)
 J Tsonga (FRA) vs  T Berdych (CZE)
Not Before 7:00 pm
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs  M Youzhny (RUS)
 R Federer (SUI) vs L Rosol (CZE)
COURT 1 start 3:00 pm
Time TBA –  D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs R Bautista Agut (ESP) / I Sijsling (NED)
Not Before 5:00 pm
M Bhupathi (IND) / D Istomin (UZB) vs  R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK)