Murray remains on course for Djokovic showdown

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Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic remain on course for their first meeting of 2017 after easing into the Qatar Open semi-finals on Thursday.

The pair met five times last season - all finals, including two grand slam deciders - as Djokovic prevailed overall with three wins to Murray's two.

However, Murray got the bragging rights last time out at the ATP World Tour Finals, as he secured the season-ending world number one spot with a 6-3 6-4 win.

Their first encounter of 2017 could come in Saturday's final after they sealed their places in the last four in Qatar with straight-set victories over Radek Stepanek and Nicolas Almagro.

Murray needed a tie-break to take the early initiative against Almagro, the world number one having lost his serve in the opening game of the match.

He needed to battle in the second as well as he failed to consolidate an early advantage but he broke for a second time in the 11th game before serving out a 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 victory to stretch his winning run to 27 matches.

The top seed will meet Tomas Berdych in the semis after he comfortably beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 6-3, although the Czech wasted six match points before sealing his win.

Djokovic made light work of veteran Stepanek as he eased to a 6-3 6-3 triumph, ending the 38-year-old's hopes of stealing the spotlight again after becoming the oldest winner on the ATP Tour on Thursday.

The Serbian will meet Fernando Verdasco in the last four after the Spaniard beat fourth seed Ivo Karlovic 6-2 7-5.

The Chennai Open last eight line-up is complete with three of the four seeds in action all progressing.

Mikhail Youzhny, Benoit Paire and Roberto Bautista-Agut all sailed through their second-round matches in straight sets, but Martin Klizan was unable to follow suit.

The fourth seed came up short against Aljaz Bedene, the Briton winning two of their three tie-breaks to set up a meeting with Paire.