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He looked tired, withdrawn and ill as he slumped to a 6-3, 6-2 defeat to Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian defending champion who will tackle Roger Federer in the final.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.
The Frenchman then struck the ball with real flair and had a brief glimpse of turning the match his way when he got to deuce on Federer’s serve in the sixth game, but that just raised the Grand Slam record holder to new heights and he won his last 18 service points without reply.
“It was a good match,” said Federer, who now has a good chance to win back the title he won in 2005 and 2006. “I played well. It became a high quality match in the second set and it was right that it went to a tiebreak because Tsonga played well too.”
? CHENNAI OPEN
AFP, CHENNAI, India
Top seed Tomas Berdych and No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka secured contrasting wins on Friday to set up a semi-final clash at the Chennai Open.
World No. 6 Berdych brushed aside Slovenia’s 112nd-ranked Blaz Kavcic 6-3, 6-3 on center court of the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium.
Swiss star Wawrinka came from behind to down eighth-seeded Robin Haase of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a quarter-final that finished late into the night following an hour’s rain delay.
The second semi-final will feature sixth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia against Xavier Malisse of Belgium.
Tipsarevic took out rising Japanese star Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4, while the seventh-seeded Malisse scored an emphatic 6-0, 6-2 win over error-prone Bjorn Phau of Germany.
Berdych dropped his serve twice in the second set, but kept the pressure on Kavcic by breaking him four times.
“I had never played him before, so it was a little bit tough to know what to expect,” the Czech said of Kavcic. “Some mistakes crept into my game at the start of the second set. Maybe I was forcing my shots a little too much, especially when the wind was behind me, but on the positive side, I am happy I could break him a few times and finish the match in straight sets.”
Phau, who knocked out fourth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France in the second round after fighting back from 1-6, 2-5 down, failed to conjure another comeback against Malisse.
Malisse raced through the first set in 35 minutes as Phau failed to hold any of his service games, and then broke the German twice in the second set to wrap up the match in 1 hour, 11 minutes.
“I played really well from the start,” the 60th-ranked Malisse said. “We had a long game at 2-0 in the first set which I managed to win and after that it was tough for him to come back.”
Malisse, who won the Chennai tournament in 2007, said he enjoyed playing in the southern Indian city.
“It’s very relaxing, the matches start at 5pm, so you can rest and recover well,” Malisse said.
Meanwhile, a break in the seventh game helped the 49th-ranked Tipsarevic wrap up the first set against Nishikori in 49 minutes.
Both players traded a break each in the second set, before Tipsarevic broke again in the seventh game and then served out the match.
Tipsarevic said he was relieved the contest ended early to keep him fresh for the semi-final.
“I was happy to finish the match in two sets,” the Serb said. “If it had gone to three sets, I would be very tired for my semi-final. Now, hopefully, I’ll be fresh to win my next match.”
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