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Djokovic enters Dubai final

NOVAK Djokovic reached his first final of the season when he beat third-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 at the Dubai Championships yesterday.

Djokovic repeated his semifinal victory over Simon at the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai last November, where he went on to claim the title. The top-seeded Serb now faces either fourth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer or unseeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

"I think I fought my way through in the match, really believed till the end, and mentally this is a very important win for me," Djokovic told reporters. "If I want to stay on top of the men's game, I have to win these matches, because Simon is certainly one of the best players in the world.

"He plays a very unique game. He's very solid from all sides, and playing with a very small number of unforced errors, which ... when you see him, you don't think that physically he's that strong and he has great endurance."

It took Djokovic two hours 44-minutes to edge his opponent as both players struggled to produce their best tennis in the afternoon heat.

Djokovic was especially unstable during the first set and into the second as he failed to find any consistency.

Simon, though, was under early pressure as he fought off two break points at 1-1 before breaking to lead 4-2 when Djokovic made a forehand error.

Both players held break point opportunities in the second set, before Djokovic broke in the final game with a forehand winner.

Simon then made a bright start to the final set, breaking for 1-0 and conceding just two points in the first two games.

But Djokovic levelled at 3-3 when Simon made a backhand error, and the Frenchman had to fight off another break point before holding for 4-4.

Djokovic then held for 6-5 on his third game point, and broke for the match after Simon set up match point by netting a low forehand volley. The relieved Serbian closed out the match with a smash.

"I was one set up, I was playing far better than him, because he made so many mistakes from the baseline," said the frustrated Simon.

"I had enough chances to win this match, and finally I lost it, so that's why it is a very bad match."

In Delray Beach, Florida, top-seeded Mardy Fish reached the Delray Beach International quarterfinals with his easiest win yet over fellow American Vince Spadea 6-4, 6-1 on Thursday. The duo has been playing each other for nearly a decade, but this was the first match between the former Delray Beach finalists to finish in two sets.

"We've always had tough matches," Fish said. "I think I've figured out what to do."

Fish made sure of it with two breaks in the second set. He's hoping to become the first top seed in the 17-year history of this tournament to claim the winner's trophy.

"It's fun to be the marked guy and everybody is gunning for you," said Fish, who reached the final in San Jose, California, this month.

Spadea, who reached at least the quarters here every year since 2004, has been fighting a virus and fever since his first-round match.

"I think there are some factors, and those factors being that he's improved, he's playing well and I was under-conditioned," Spadea said. "I just didn't have a lot of energy out there and my whole game thrives on energy, and grinding, and getting an extra ball back, and winning ugly, really."

Fish will next meet sixth-seeded Florent Serra of France, who overcame Mischa Zverev of Germany for the first time, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Seventh-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France reached his third quarterfinal of the year with a 7-6 (4), 7-5 win over Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan.

Chardy, who reached his first career final in Johannesburg this month, will face Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals. The Cypriot outlasted Dudi Sela of Israel, 7-6 (7), 6-3.


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