Roger Federer remains on course to win his 100th ATP Tour title at the Dubai Championships after surviving a fightback from Fernando Verdasco to progress to the quarterfinals.
The Swiss, a seven-time champion in Dubai, had not lost any of his previous six meetings with Verdasco but the world number 32 forced a decider and then had a chance to go a break up in the third set before Federer came through 6-3 3-6 6-3.
Federer won his 99th title in Basel four months ago and this ATP 500 event represents his fourth chance to bring up the century landmark. The second seed's last-eight opponent will be Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who he beat in their only previous meeting at the 2018 Australian Open.
Verdasco could not afford to give a player of Federer's quality any assistance and yet that is exactly what he did when facing break point in his second service game, a wild, miscued second serve flying way above the Swiss' head to put the 20-time grand slam champion 3-1 up.
Serving for the first set, Federer delivered a serve-and-volley that prompted Verdasco to shrug in acknowledgment of his opponent's brilliance, though it was the Spaniard's unforced error that eventually saw the 37-year-old claim the opener.
There was a momentum swing in the second set, though, with Federer producing 12 unforced errors and winning none of his four points at the net. Verdasco could not seize his first break point - which came about when Federer dispatched a routine overhead smash into the net - but took his next to go 2-0 up before serving to love to force a decider.
There was a chance for Verdasco to take the first break in the third, but Federer came up with a big serve when it mattered, won the game and then did not drop a point on serve again. Federer benefited from a degree of fortune to bring up his first break point with a net-cord winner, and he emerged victorious from a long rally to go 5-3 in front.
A delicious crosscourt forehand winner brought up three match points in the next game and Federer sealed the deal at the first time of asking.