DOHA, January 5, 2017
Defending champion Novak Djokovic headlined Thursday’s quarterfinal action at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. The World No.2 from Serbia celebrated his 12th consecutive win over Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek, winning 6-3, 6-3.
Djokovic won 73 per cent of his first service points and converted four of his six break point chances to secure victory in one hour and 31 minutes.
“It was entertaining playing against Radek for whom I have a lot of respect,” told Djokovic, who extends his 16-set win streak in Doha. “He always challenges you and makes you play good tennis. You have to earn the win. He has a great variety. Today he showed couple of really skillful volleys. So all in all, I thought in terms of my performance, under the circumstances with the wind I put the level up again, which is great. So everything is going in the right direction.”
Djokovic will next take on Fernando Verdasco. The 33-year-old Spaniard opened play on centre court to gain a fourth win in the seventh tour meeting with Big Croat Ivo Karlovic. Verdasco withstood 13 aces and broke serve three times to knock out the sixth seed after one hour and 23 minutes. Djokovic and the World No. 42 from Madrid will face off for the 14th time with the Serbian leading 9-4 in head-to-head records. Verdasco’s last win came in the semi-finals of the 2010 Monte Carlo Masters.
“I saw him play against Goffin a bit more, and he played really solid, really impressive tennis,” Djokovic told about his next opponent.
“He’s been playing better than last year when we encountered each other in the second round. He’s a very complete player. He’s got weapons from forehand side; big serve; very strong. If he’s feeling good on the given day, he can really challenge any player on any surface. That’s how I see him. We have always been aware of his potential and his talent. Just that he wasn’t able to keep things consistent throughout his career. But, you know, he’s very dangerous player if he’s, as I said, feeling well.”
Murray Battles Into Doha Semis
World No. 1 Andy Murray extended his career-long-match win streak to 27. The 29-year-old Briton fought past Nicolas Almagro 7-6, 7-5. Murray sent down five aces and capitalized on three of his 12 break point opportunities to prevail in two hours and nine minutes.
“It was obviously very windy and it was blowing kind of across the court a lot. That makes timing pretty difficult,” Murray told afterwards. “So it was hard for everyone today. Cold as well so that the court is pretty dead. You’re not really getting much off the surface. So, yeah, it was tricky. He is also a shot-maker. He goes big. He takes chances. Yeah, made it tough for me. I could have maybe made it a bit easier on myself if I converted a few more break point chances, but got through it in the end.”
During his unbeaten run before Thursday’s encounter, Murray had defeated 23 different players from 17 countries, highlighted by 13 wins against Top 20 opponents. He is 53-6 in sets since September 18, sweeping 24 straight sets to begin his streak. He awaits third seeded Czech Tomas Berdych, who beat fifth favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-5, 6,-3 in one hour and 31 minutes.