Sat, Jan 08, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Suffering Nadal makes Qatar semis


Rafael Nadal serves to Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis during their ATP Qatar Open quarter-final match in Doha on Thursday.


Rafael Nadal overcame Ernests Gulbis and his continuing bout of fever with a courageous performance to reach the semi-finals of the Qatar Open on Thursday.

Nadal’s 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 win over Gulbis, a gifted but unpredictable Latvian ranked just outside the top 20, means that he is within one win of another episode of his great rivalry with Roger Federer.

However, the holder of three of the four Grand Slam titles could not capitalize on a good start, lacked his usual overwhelming physicality and often left the ball in short, attackable positions for a hard-hitting opponent.

Indeed, after relinquishing a 3-1 lead in the first set, there seemed to be doubts about whether Nadal, who has been on antibiotics, would last if it developed into a long, tough tussle.

Nadal called for the doctor, apparently feeling unwell. He was told to drink more and that if he didn’t feel better soon, he might then think about whether or not he wanted to continue.

That caused Nadal to call out rather alarmingly “water, water, water,” but although his performance remained below par, he always seemed the likely winner after surviving the tiebreaker.

The highlight of his effort was a brilliant plunging volley from a fierce passing shot by Gulbis at 30-40 in the sixth game of the second set, just when a break of serve might have lifted his young opponent to a higher level. After closing that game out for 4-2, he began to see the finish line and appeared to find extra energy as he did so.

“I just did the best I could today,” Nadal said. “I started well and I pushed him to make many mistakes. I will be more ready for my next match.”

His semi-final opponent will be Nikolay Davydenko, the defending champion from Russia, who overcame the steep serving of Ivo Karlovic, the former top 20 Croatian, 6-3, 7-5.

Davydenko beat Nadal in a sensational final last year, losing the first set to love and saving two match points in the process.

“I will be ready for him this time,” Nadal said.

Federer was not at his best either, but he reached his eighth successive semi-final since losing his Wimbledon title six months ago by outplaying Viktor Troicki 6-2, 6-2.

Federer passed up fully seven break points before breaking through for 4-2 in the second set, but there were still some signs of the improved form he has enjoyed since his association with coach Paul Annacone.

There was also a surreal phase, late in the first set, when Federer’s acceleration into a 5-2 lead coincided with a burst of noisy and colorful fireworks, as if they had been planned as an accompaniment to his explosive arts.

Federer now has a semi-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is seeking his first title in 15 months after a long spell with knee problems, and who progressed with a 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (11/9) win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the seventh-seeded Spaniard.



Kei Nishikori of Japan rallied to beat Alejandro Falla of Colombia 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the Chennai Open.

The 98th-ranked Nishikori, who beat two-time defending champion Marin Cilic in the opening round, was down a break and trailing 3-0 in the second set when he turned it around.

Also, sixth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia defeated Alexandre Kudryavtsev of Russia 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), and eighth-seeded Robin Haase of the Netherlands beat Yuichi Sugita of Japan 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

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