Following his Grand Slam breakthrough year in 2010, Tomas Berdych has finally cleared another significant hurdle. He has found a way to beat Nikolay Davydenko. The 29-year-old Russian, who won their first eight meetings, used to be Berdych's bete noire, but the world No 7 finally appears to have his number, having won two of their last three confrontations.
Berdych's latest success came here yesterday in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Championships, a 6-3, 7-6 victory sending the 25-year-old Czech into his fifth consecutive quarter-final this year. With Germany's Philipp Petzschner, the world No 73, his next opponent, Berdych will fancy his chances of reaching his first semi-final of the current campaign.
Until last summer there were those who doubted whether Berdych would ever realise the potential that was evident as long ago as 2004, when he beat Roger Federer at the Olympic Games. Berydch won the Paris Masters a year later, but titles have since proved hard to come by, with only three more added to his cv. Nevertheless, his performances at last year's French Open and Wimbledon, where he reached the semi-finals and final respectively, showed that he now has the ability to succeed on all surfaces.
The repeated defeats to Davydenko were perhaps evidence of a lack of variety in Berdych's play. Davydenko, one of the quickest players in the game, used to relish lengthy baseline rallies against the Czech, who at 6ft 5in tall and more than 14 stone is not the best of movers around the court.
Yesterday's victory showed how much Berdych's game has developed. The Czech still appears most at ease at the back of the court, but he is not afraid to come to the net if the opportunity arises. His serve is also a big weapon and came in handy the only time he appeared in any sort of difficulty. Having served his way out of trouble from 4-5 and 15-40 down in the second set, Berdych went on to win the tie-break 7-5, upon which Davydenko smashed a ball out of the court in frustration.
Novak Djokovic, seeking his third successive title here, came through a tricky test against Feliciano Lopez, who has twice lost in the final. Djokovic won a highly entertaining contest 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Lopez, whose serve-and-volley game is suited to the warm conditions and slick surface at the Aviation Club, played an excellent second set and fought back from a break down to level the decider at 3-3, only for Djokovic to make the final decisive break in the following game. The Australian Open champion now meets Germany's Florian Mayer.
Federer, the top seed, needed only 70 minutes to beat Spain's Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-4. The world No 2, who has won the title here four times but is playing the event for the first time since 2008, plays Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky in today's quarter-finals. Stakhovsky beat Ernests Gulbis, the No 8 seed, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.
Two Frenchmen will meet in the quarter-finals with Richard Gasquet taking on Gilles Simon after their victories over Sergei Bubka junior and Lukas Rosol respectively. Both are former top 10 players who have been steadily rebuilding their ranking after lengthy absences. Gasquet, now world No 28, has won all four of his previous tour meetings with Simon, the world No 33.