(CNN) -- Defending champion Novak Djokovic battled to a three-set victory over Croatian Ivan Ljubicic to reach the semifinals of the Dubai Open where he will play Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
Djokovic, the highest seeded player in the tournament after the withdrawal of Roger Federer with a lung infection, looked set to follow other highly-ranked players out of the event as he lost the first set to Ljubicic.
But after staving off break points at 4-4 in the second set, Serbian ace Djokovic broke Ljubicic on his first break points of the match and held to level at one set all.
The decider was a formality as Djokovic swept every game to win 2-6 6-4 6-0 and stay on course for his second title of the year.
"I think he (Ljubicic) serves as well as anybody on the tour right now," Djokovic told the official ATP Web site.
"It (was) very difficult for me to get some returns back and try to get in some rallies. That was my goal, basically."
Djokovic now faces a tricky hurdle in the returning to form Baghdatis, who beat fellow unseeded player Michael Berrer 7-6 6-1 in a later match, but sixth seed Marin Cilic followed Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in going out in Dubai.
The Croat was upset 7-6 7-5 by Austrian Jurgen Melzer, who had put out Federer's stand-in Tommy Robredo in the second round.
He next meets Russian seventh seed Mikhail Youzhny, who was a 6-3 6-4 victor over Murray's conqueror Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia in the other quarterfinal.