Sun, Jan 09, 2011 - Page 20 News List

Feverish Nadal falls in shock defeat

TIME TO RECUPERATE:Rafael Nadal now has eight days before the Australian Open and the best that can be said is that the setback has given him longer to acclimatize

AFP, DOHA

Japan’s Kei Nishikori serves to Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic during their Chennai Open quarter-final at the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium in Chennai, India, on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

Rafael Nadal will delay traveling to Australia for the first Grand Slam event of the season because of the illness which contributed to his shock defeat in the Qatar Open on Friday.

Nadal will hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time for the first time if he deposes Roger Federer in the Melbourne event starting in nine days’ time, but his preparation has been forced into sudden last-minute changes.

The world No. 1 from Spain will remain in Doha for at least another day in an attempt to rid himself of the fever that has troubled him since the start of the week.

He looked tired, withdrawn and ill as he slumped to a 6-3, 6-2 defeat to Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian defending champion who will tackle Roger Federer in the final.

The result was all the more remarkable since Davydenko’s wrist injury has prevented him reaching a final in the 19 tournaments since he beat Nadal in an amazing climax in Doha last year, but Nadal did not look fit enough to take the court.

The Spaniard was pale, slow and sweating profusely, and he was unable to impose the heavy physical game with which he batters and bombards most of his opponents into submission. His expression became increasingly perplexed as Davydenko stepped in and launched comfortable winner after winner, but it was not until Nadal was 2-0 down in the second set that he appeared to reach a similar conclusion himself.

“I don’t have anything. I don’t have my game. I feel much more tired than usual,” he said after calling the doctor to the court.

The reply came: “For now, we can do nothing.”

Nor could Nadal, except lose with disappointment and good grace. He clearly had not expected to feel as bad he did after battling through three matches with relative success while taking antibiotics.

“I had a fever a few days ago, so every day I think I’m going to feel a little bit better,” he had said earlier.

Nadal had also admitted that a combination of his ailment and antibiotics might cause his game to lose power, but he believed it was more important “to keep having the right rhythm for the next weeks.”

Whether that opinion was a wise one remains to be seen. The manner of his loss also brought into question his decision to play doubles in Qatar, in which he had to play three more matches en route to a final with his compatriot Marc Lopez.

Davydenko was certainly surprised by Nadal’s problems.

“When I played him last year, he had good form,” he said. “Today, he felt different. Normally he is tougher and he plays stronger. I don’t mean his tennis, I mean physically.”

Nadal now has eight days before the Australian Open starts and the best that can be said is that the setback has given him a little longer to recover from the flight and to acclimatise to the Melbourne heat, but it denies the Qatar Open the final it wanted between the two greatest players of the modern era. It also makes it increasingly likely that Federer will win his fifth title since losing at Wimbledon and taking on new coach Paul Annacone.

Federer reached his seventh final in nine tournaments with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in which he moved into a high gear for the first time this week.

His game also appeared to have a slightly more attacking emphasis and he answered the challenge well when Tsonga began to play close to his brilliant best in the second set.

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