DOHA: Novak Djokovic eased through to his first semi-final of the season at the Qatar Open on Thursday and denied evergreen veteran Radek Stepanek the chance to make history.
Djokovic won 6-3, 6-3 in testing, blustery conditions to set up a semi-final against Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.
If the 38-year-old Stepanek had won he would have been the oldest player to have qualified for an ATP semi-final in almost 25 years, since a 40-year-old Jimmy Connors reached the last four in San Francisco in 1993.
“It’s exciting, you obviously want to start the year off in the best possible way, that’s three wins out of three,” said Djokovic immediately afterwards.
“It’s always a great test in these kind of conditions, it’s never easy for the players.”
Djokovic, the defending champion in Doha, dominated throughout the 91-minute match.
The victory secured a 12th straight win for the Serb against Stepanek and extended his set-winning streak in Qatar to 16.
Djokovic won last year’s title without dropping a set, and he is yet to do so this year.
He is also on course to meet the man who took away his world number one spot at the end of last season, Andy Murray in Saturday’s final.
Murray was due on court later on Thursday against Spain’s Nicolas Almagro in another last-eight clash.
Earlier, Verdasco won through easily 6-2, 7-5, against another veteran, Ivo Karlovic.
The giant Croatian, 37, is currently ranked 20 in the world and is the oldest top 20 player since 43-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1978.
He is also the last man to beat Djokovic in Doha, back in 2015.
The semi-final line-up will be completed on Thursday when Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the number three and five seeds in Doha, face off.
Meanwhile, the night was not over for Stepanek, who rushed off court to play in the doubles’ semi-finals with partner Vasek Pospisil.