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Novak Djokovic takes on veteran Radek Stepanek in the Doha quarter-finals on Thursday.

Djokovic To Meet Stepanek In Doha QFs

The 29-year-old Serbian cruises into the last eight

Defending champion Novak Djokovic cruised into the Qatar ExxonMobil Open quarter-finals on Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Horacio Zeballos in 72 minutes.

World No. 2 Djokovic broke No. 71-ranked Zeballos’ serve in the fourth game en route to opening up a 4-1 lead, then for a 3-2 advantage in the second set. It was his ninth match win (9-1 lifetime) at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament, where he beat Rafael Nadal for last year’s title.

“You’re trying to start with the right intensity, and the start of the match today was definitely better than the first round,” said Djokovic. “Although I was quite pleasantly surprised with his aggressive play… it was a good, quality match. I thought I played well on my service games."

The Serbian goes on to face 38-year-old Radek Stepanek, the oldest player to win a match since Younes El Aynaoui at 2010 Doha, after he defeated wild card Arthur De Greef 6-3, 6-2. Stepanek is now the oldest ATP World Tour quarter-finalist since Jimmy Connors, aged 42, at the 1995 Gerry Weber Open in Halle. Djokovic leads Stepanek 12-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

“I know Radek very well," said Djokovic. "He's one of the best friends on the tour that I have. He keeps on surprising everybody with his level of consistency in his game.”

Fernando Verdasco broke a two-match losing streak against David Goffin, the fourth seed, by saving 12 of 14 break points in a 6-1, 7-6(6) victory over one hour and 42 minutes. The 33-year-old Verdasco had match points at 5-4 and 6-5 in the second set, before closing out on his sixth match point. He will next challenge sixth seed Ivo Karlovic, a 7-6(3), 7-6(3) winner over Karen Khachanov.

Nicolas Almagro notched his fourth-straight victory over seventh seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in a 7-6(5), 7-6(6) win over one hour and 46 minutes. Kohlschreiber could not convert one set point opportunity at 5-4, 40/30 in the second set. Almagro will next play World No. 1 Andy Murray.

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