DOHA, January 7, 2016
World number one Novak Djokovic battled into the semi-finals on Thursday at the Qatar Exxon Mobil Open, winning 6-3, 7-5 against eighth seed Leonardo Mayer in his hardest match of the season so far. In a couple of attractive rallies Mayer often kept the pace but Djokovic rallied from a break down in the second set and was the more solid player in the end, winning 78% of his first service points. The 28-year-old Serbian finished the encounter after one hour and 33 minutes.
“It was obviously the toughest match for me this week. He served well and I am happy to be through,” Djokovic told afterwards and is going to face third seed Tomas Berdych next. The 30-year-old Czech defeated Kyle Edmund, who appeared in his first ATP World Tour quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 21 minutes.
Rafael Nadal made it into the semi-finals, too, but also had to fight hard against Andrey Kuznetsov, winning 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Both players met at last year’s French Open for the first time with the world number 5 winning in straight sets. This time, however, Kuznetsov was very effective and capitalized on all of his four break point chances he gained. Nadal was more solid on the second serve and gained the decisive break in the ninth game of the final set when the Spaniard overpowered his opponent from the baseline. In the following, Nadal served out after two hours and seven minutes.
“He played amazing, I think. He played so crazy with amazing shots. It was so difficult to keep the control,” Nadal told afterward. “It’s true that I missed the serve more times than what I wanted. But I played only a real bad game with my serve at 4-3 in the second set. The rest, his return was amazing like his entire level of play tonight. I think I played a great third set, because if not, I will not be in that semifinal” the world number five added.
Nadal also had a few words about his first “Rafael Nadal Academy”, which will be launched soon this year.
“I am happy and very excited about the first academy. First centers are going to be in Mallorca in Manacor in my home town, and we want to make sure that we really do the right work and we want to do the things 100% the right way,” the 29-year-old Spaniard explained. Another academy outside his home island, for example here in Doha, is not in sight yet.
“Without having the first center at home, that would be impossible, no? Because we will not have the control of that. I believe that we have all the knowledge necessary to have an academy today because we know all the process in all ages how we have to work with the kids and at the same time for us it’s so important the education and the values, and that’s why inside the academy we’re gonna have a school, we’re gonna have a medical center and we’re gonna have, I think, the right people to help the kids to become the best players possible but at the same time to prepare them for the life, for the future,” Nadal added.
“So we’re gonna work hard to try to make sure that the kids that are coming there they want to work hard on the tennis game, and I think we’re gonna have the right professionals for that, but for us it’s so important too that the players who will not be on the professional tour they have the possibility to go to the university after the academy and at the same time with the right values and the right education to keep going, because sports and education goes so close together.”
Nadal will face Illya Marchenko next. The world number 94 from the Ukraine knocked out defending champion David Ferrer in the opening round and continued his winning streak beating seventh seed Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 7-6. Marchenko, the tournament’s last direct entry, read his opponent’s service very well and put a lot of pressure on the Frenchman with his returns to seal victory in one hour and 34 minutes.
“I felt a few problems in my back but I would have been ready for a third set. I hope that it’ll be better tomorrow,” told Marchenko, who received medical treatments during the second set of the match.
“It’s a great opportunitiy to play against him,” he stated about facing the former world number one in his third ATP World Tour career semi-final, his first since St. Petersburg 2010 where he lost to Mikhail Kukushkin.