Defending champ Djokovic advances to Qatar Open semis

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DOHA, Qatar — Defending champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the Qatar Open semifinals by beating Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Djokovic holds a 13-1 career record over the 38-year-old Stepanek, and has won their last 12 meetings.

Djokovic took a 4-2 lead in the first set before Stepanek broke his serve when the second seed netted a backhand on a third break point in the game.

Djokovic won the next two games, winning the set on an overhead smash to an open court.

In the second set, Djokovic established a 3-1 lead and held on to the advantage.

He will play Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the semifinals. Verdasco defeated sixth-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-2, 7-5.

Top-seeded Andy Murray plays Nicolas Almagro of Spain in the first evening match, followed by third-seeded Tomas Berdych and fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.