DUBAI // Considering how savagely this year's Dubai Championships have been hit by injuries and illness it is a small wonder that Mikhail Youzhny is still standing and looking forward today to his fourth semi-final at the Aviation Club. Youzhny, who won one of those previous three semis in 2004 before becoming one of Roger Federer's four final conquests here, battled through the top half of the draw to face Austria's Jurgen Melzer in spite of the fitness problems that have blighted his season so far.
A right wrist injury forced him to default in the Australian Open before his intended third round match, while his hopes of winning the Marseille final against Sweden's Robin Soderling earlier this month were scuppered by a hamstring strain which is still bothering him. The Russian, whose celebration trademark here in previous years was to adopt the profile of a soldier with an imaginary gun, had too much firepower for his quarter-final opponent Janko Tipsaravic who had risen to dizzy heights the previous evening to claim the prize scalp of Andy Murray.
Youzhny sensed that a gallant Tipsarevic was close to a spent force as he carved out yesterday's relatively comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory. "I had a big advantage today because Janko had a really tough match last night," said Youzhny, grateful that he had extra recovery time after his second-round win over German qualifier Bjorn Phau. "Janko made more mistakes than me which was the key to the match."
The outcome of the 92-minute contest was determined by Youzhny pouncing on the only break point he had in the opening set to make an important breakthrough in the eighth game and he repeated the feat in the seventh game of the second set to make it 2-2 in his career meetings with Tipsarevic. Youzhny is hoping that he will not be embarrassed for a third time this year by his incapability to complete a match. "My wrist feels a bit better than my leg," he said. "But I can still feel the hamstring injury. We play so many tough matches one after another that this kind of thing happens to players sometimes."