Dubai semifinals: Djokovic vs. Del Potro, Federer vs. Berdych

A blockbuster semifinal lineup on Friday in Dubai features the top four seeds and four of the top seven players in the world. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, and Juan Martin Del are bidding for spots in the title match.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (4) Juan Martin Del Potro

Djokovic and Del Potro will be facing each other for the 10th time in their careers and for the fifth time in the last seven months when they clash in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday. Del Potro won their first 2012 encounter to capture bronze at the London Olympics, but Djokovic has won three in a row (in Cincinnati, at the U.S. Open, and at the Wold Tour Finals). Overall, the Serb leads the head-to-head series 7-2.

On his own accord, Del Potro is playing well enough to beat anyone right now. The seventh-ranked Argentine, who triumphed in Rotterdam, is 11-2 for the year following victories this week over Marcos Baghdatis (in which Del Potro saved three match points), Somdev Devvarman, and Daniel Brands. Djokovic has won 16 consecutive matches dating back to last season, including three in straight sets this week at the expense of Viktor Troicki, Roberto Bautista-Agut, and Andreas Seppi.

The good news for Del Potro is that he has improved with each match in Dubai, but that’s just about where the good news ends. His left wrist is not entirely 100 percent and he is facing an on-fire opponent. This will be Djokovic’s toughest test of the week to date, but the three-time Dubai champion should not have too much trouble putting himself within one win of a fourth trophy at this event.

Pick: Djokovic in 2

(3) Tomas Berdych vs. (2) Roger Federer

Berdych and Federer will be squaring off for the 17th time in their careers during semifinal action on Friday. Federer leads the head-to-head series 11-5, but Berdych pulled off a 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 upset in their most recent encounter at last summer’s U.S. Open. In nine hard-court meetings, Federer is just barely ahead 5-4.

With both players in stellar form, the latest installment of this borderline rivalry promises to be another entertaining affair. Federer needed three sets to get past Malek Jaziri in his Dubai opener, but he looked much better in routs of Marcel Granollers and Nikolay Davydenko. The second-ranked Swiss is now 10-2 for his 2013 campaign. Berdych’s year includes a quarterfinal at the Australian Open, Davis Cup heroics in a win over Switzerland, and a runner-up in Marseille. So far this week he has dismissed Rajeev Ram, Tobias Kamke, and Dmitry Tursunov all in straight sets.

This is a big step up in competition from their previous three rounds for both players. Federer is once again in the midst of a tournament in which he has raised his level with each match, and he should up the ante to an even greater extent for Berdych. Look for an inspired No. 2 seed to avenge his New York loss…but not without a fight.

Pick: Federer in 3

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