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Nadal, Djokovic on course for Qatar clash

Agence France Presse Friday, January 8th 2016 02:50 PM
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after winning his Qatar Open men's singles tennis match against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in Doha, Qatar January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari

Agence France Presse
DOHA: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic remained on course for their first clash of 2016 as both came through tough quarterfinals Thursday to reach the last four of the Qatar Open.

A fist-pumping Nadal qualified by beating Andrey Kuznetsov over three sets in an enthralling battle. Nadal won 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 but was made to work for his victory by the Russian.

Djokovic’s progress was more serene, though not without its scares, as he beat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer, 6-3, 7-5.

The world No. 1 is yet to drop a set in his three matches so far.

Nadal’s match, however, will live longest in the memory.

The Spaniard, looking to recapture the form that has made him a 14-time Grand Slam winner, won the first set comfortably enough but from there the real drama started.

Despite initially being a break up, Nadal lost a see-saw second set as Kuznetsov’s powerful forehands brought him back into the match.

The Russian eventually took it 7-5, the first time the 24-year-old had ever taken a set from Nadal.

The final set was also unpredictable, with No. 2 seed Nadal again squandering a break advantage before decisively taking the Russian’s serve in the ninth game.

The world No. 5 then served out immediately afterward to secure a place in the last four.

Meanwhile, Djokovic overcame losing his serve in the first two games of each set to beat his Argentine opponent.

Despite that, the Serb never looked like going out, especially after Mayer squandered his best chance in the second set.

Serving for the set at 5-4, he was broken to love in a game which included the Argentinian putting a straight forward overhead smash into the net. Djokovic took the next two games as well to secure his first ever semifinal appearance at the Qatar Open.

Also in the last four – where he will play Nadal – is Ukrainian outsider Illya Marchenko. He continued his remarkable run in Doha, overcoming injury and France’s Jeremy Chardy to qualify for the semifinals.

The world-ranked No. 94, who knocked defending champion David Ferrer out in the first round, won in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Marchenko, 28, triumphed despite calling for two medical timeouts in the second set and receiving treatment on court from a physio for a back problem.

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