ABU DHABI // Novak Djokovicshowed no signs of the shoulder injury which troubled the final months of his 2011 season, but he suffered a lapse of concentration that almost proved costly in his match with Gael Monfils.
The world No 1 recovered in time to defeat the Frenchman 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 on Thursday night and advance to the semi-finals of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex.
Four of the world's top five-ranked players will be in action in the semis on Friday: Djokovic plays Roger Federer at 3pm in a No 1 versus 3 meeting, and Rafael Nadal faces David Ferrer in a No 2 versus 5 match that will not begin before 5pm.
Djokovic and Monfils seemed intent on entertaining the crowd in the late match, and they certainly accomplished that, especially when they pulled off three between-the-legs shots on a single point in the first set.
The competition turned more serious when Monfils took the second set and held two break points in the third game of the final set, but Djokovic pulled himself together to win.
"We're all in the first couple of weeks of preparation, so we're not 100 per cent on the court but still trying to perform our best for the people here," Djokovic said. "I think we had a great match for the crowd, a lot of fun points, a lot of great athleticism."
Monfils was asked if Djokovic seemed as sharp as he did in the 2011 season, when he won 11 championships, including three majors. "It's always tough to compare, but he played well," Monfils said. "Better to see him tomorrow against Roger."
On facing Federer, Djokovic said: "I don't know how well I will play but it always is a challenge to play Federer in any tournament. I'm sure he will bring up his best game and he will play well. I'm sure he will have some great points and the crowd will enjoy it."
"It was difficult because David is a very good player and in good shape, and after two hours and 15 minutes it's difficult to run like him," Tsonga said. "I played well, a good match. I did some good things, but I lost this one."
Ferrer expects a severe test against Nadal. "It's very difficult to defeat Rafael, no? I need to serve very well and have all my shots, for Rafael."