DUBAI // It likely took Novak Djokovic longer to get back to his Burj Al Arab hotel room that it did for him to dispatch Marsel Ilhan 6-1, 6-1 on Thursday night.
The world No 1 beat Turkey’s 104th-ranked Ilhan in 49 minutes to book his place in Friday’s Dubai Tennis Championships semi-finals. He will face Tomas Berdych.
Andy Murray, in order to avoid Dubai’s notorious traffic, spurned a week’s stay at the seven-star Burj in favour of the Aviation Club’s on-site hotel, the Jumeirah Creekside.
Djkokovic did not, and the Serb was clearly in a rush to make his way back to his luxurious accommodation.
Ilhan, who had fought his way though the qualifiers and caused a surprise on Wednesday after beating Feliciano Lopez in the second round, was broken three times in succession. Djokovic, the eight-time grand slam winner, closed out the first set in less than 20 minutes.
Ilhan, 27, called upon his physio to assist him with pain in his lower back, but he was unable to improve in the second set, holding serve just once. The match was over inside 50 minutes.
“Marsel obviously struggled a little bit with his back, but I had never played him before,” Djokovic said. “He had four matches in this tournament coming through the qualifiers, beating some good players, and that obviously earns him respect. I didn’t want to underestimate him.
“It was a good performance. I still feel like I can improve and I can get my game to high level, but so far, so good. [Today] is going to be the most difficult match of the tournament, no question about it, against Tomas. That presents a big challenge, obviously.”
Djokovic has a favourable record against Berdych, yet he is taking nothing for granted.
“If he serves well, he can win against anybody,” the five-time Australian Open winner said. “Very few points will decide the winner.”
Earlier in the evening, Roger Federer secured safe passage to the semi-finals when Richard Gasquet retired, citing a back injury. The world No 2 Swiss had marched to a 6-1, first-set victory when his French opponent withdrew.
“I have had a lot of bad backs in my career,” Federer said. “I know enough about the back, and I know how horrible it is to play with that, and how much worse that it can sometimes become.
“Being down in a match like this, it’s always going to be tough, and it’s maybe better not to take any chances at this point.”
The retirement deprived a packed Aviation Club of its main attraction, but the 20 minutes of tennis that they did see from the 17-time grand slam-winner was ominously impressive.
“Here you need to play the right shots more than the beautiful shots – but the beautiful shots come naturally if you’re playing good tennis,” Federer said.
“I played well, aggressive, and I’m excited to be in the semis.”
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