PARIS: Top-seeded Novak Djokovic struggled while Britain's world number four Andy Murray hobbled into the Dubai Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Djokovic, the top ranked player at the two-million dollar tournament in the injury-enforced absence of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, had to fight hard before seeing off Czech world number 66, Jan Hernych, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
It was not until the final game that the Serbian really looked like winning.
Hernych started it with a double fault, and Djokovic became encouraged to make three good returns in the next five points, finishing the match with a wrong-footing forehand pass down the line.
Djokovic next plays Marin Cilic, the rapidly improving world number 19 from Croatia.
Second seed Murray cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 win over experienced Arnaud Clement despite having an ankle taped.
Murray, who next faces another Frenchman in Richard Gasquet, broke for 2-1 and then again for 5-2, and when he broke again for 2-1 in the second, he was well on top.
Clement fought hard, but the only unexpected delay in Murray's progress came when a spectator chanted 'Clement, Clement,' as Murray was about to serve, causing him to let the ball drop, to turn, and to stare.
The spectator was ushered to one side by three security guards.
Murray beat Gasquet the last time they met with the Briton coming back from two sets down at Wimbledon when they last met.
Gasquet may use the memory to spur him to revenge, though he was not far from losing his chance to do so, standing two points from defeat, 4-5 and a mini-break down in the final set tie-breaker against Simone Bolelli, the world number 36 from Italy.
Gasquet was helped at that moment by a backhand driven wide from Bolelli, but he took advantage on the next point, returning serve well, getting in behind it, and launching a bold smash which clipped the baseline.
Bolelli increased the tension by making an appeal to the Hawkeye computer replay, which failed, but Gasquet was unfazed by the delay, and finished it with a flashing ace.
Another Frenchman, Fabrice Santoro, the 36-year-old who is playing his last full season, also won, enjoying his return to the venue where he has some of his best memories.
It was here seven years ago that Santoro appeared for the final in a wheel-chair, having been on a drip in hospital all night - and still won the title.