Top-seed Roger Federer and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic overcame tough opening sets to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Thursday.

Federer beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3 6-4 and will face the unseeded Richard Gasquet in the semis.

He had a tough opening game after being broken early but he fought back to claim the first set. The world number two, was under pressure in the second set and had to hold off break points at 3-2 and then at 4-3. However, he eventually served to victory.

After the game, he said, I thought it was a tough match, tougher than the last couple, just because the start of the match, obviously that was tricky, the first sort of three, four games, where it could be 3-Love for him, could be 2-1 for me, could be 3-1, 2-All, or whatever.

So  it was important to stay with him there, and then sort of finding the rhythm, how to play him, how is he playing, how is he serving, is he coming in, is he staying back, what's his strengths, what are his weaknesses? So it was just a matter of trying to figure him out, and I thought actually I played a really good match for the remainder of the game. You know, at the end, I'm obviously happy. It's been maybe a routine score, but, you know, I had to work for it tonight.

In the earlier game, No.2 seed Novak Djokovic faced similar pressure in the first set but recovered to beat Germany's Florian Mayer 7-5 6-1. The Serbian will next play third seed Tomas Berdych after he defeated Philipp Petzschner 7-5 6-4.

After the game, Djokovic told reporters, It was a very slow start, quite different conditions from last night's match. The ball was going faster today, and he took it to me from the start. Already first game he was on the net, twice, three times. You know, I was not moving my legs well. But when I needed to play well and needed to keep the ball in the court, I did.