DOHA, January 6, 2016
Novak Djokovic and Fernando Verdasco headlined semi-final action of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on a windy and chilly Friday evening at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha. The defending champion from Serbia fought back from set and five match points down to overcome the Spanish veteran 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.
The 33-year-old Spaniard, who has also become a Doha resident last year, had the better start into the encounter, forcing Djokovic to drop his first set of the week. Yet, Verdasco, who produced 56 unforced errors, missed five set points in the tie-break of the second frame and Djokovic capitalized on his first set point to push the match the distance. The World No. 2 was wide awake in the fifth game of the final set to gain the decisive break and eventually closed the match out after two hours and 22 minutes.
Verdasco told afterwards that he is more sad than disappointed: “It’s tough to lose against someone so important like Novak having the match so close. Honestly, thinking about how was the break points, how was the match points in the tiebreak, I don’t think that I really played that bad or I didn’t play bad at all.
“I think that it just didn’t come my way. The three I had with my serve, I served well. He just returned deep. I tried to change the direction … Then you lose that set and everything is very tough mentally. Also, he gets a lot of confidence, and at the end it’s not easy to be on top of the game again.”
Nonetheless, Verdasco will take a lot of positives from this week to Austalia, where he is playing in Sydney next week.
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“I obviously feel content that I managed to turn the match around, the match that looked very much in hands of Fernando tonight. He was clearly a better player for two sets,” Djokovic had to admit afterwards.
“I started the match well, 4-2, and then just six games in a row when I lost the timing completely. Fernando started playing quite freely from the back of the court, serving high percentage of first serves, and using the first ball after the serve very well.
“Again, it was very windy. Obviously both of us, we were quite cautious with our play. In the end of the day, it was quite a thrilling experience for me to be able to go five match points down. I’m obviously very pleased, because you need these kind of matches, these kind of confidence boosters, for whatever is coming up after that. Sometimes the player on the other side of the net is just better. The only thing I could do is fight and get myself in a position to win the match. That’s what I’ve done.”
Djokovic claimed his first victory after saving five match points since 2012 when he beat Andy Murray for the title at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. The Briton will be Djokovic’s opponent again in order to defend his Doha crown on Saturday.
Murray Outclasses Berdych
Andy Murray defeated third seed Tomas Berdych from the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4. The World No. 1 sent down 10 aces, winning 79 per cent of his first service points to advance in one hour and 41 minutes.
“This week has been a positive week. I’m happy that I’ve had five matches and some pretty competitive sets going into Australia. So I know that when the Aussie Open starts I’m going to be ready,” told Murray looking forward to the title match.
“It’s a great test tomorrow. To start the year it’s great to play against one of the best in the world. Obviously ideally win the match, but I mean, I don’t know how much bearing a match tomorrow has on what happens in Australia. There is a lot of tennis to be played before we potentially play again there.”
It is the first time in the tournament’s 25 year long history, that the Top 2 players will meet in the final of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Djokovic is leading 24-11 in head-to-head records.
Chardy and Martin Lift First ATP Team Title
Earlier the day, the French connection of Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin captured their first team title, winning the doubles final 6-4, 7-6 over third seeds Vasek Pospisil from Canada and Czech Radek Stepanek. The encounter lasted one hour and 27 minutes.
“The guys just played better today and deserved to win the trophies,” Stepanek told afterwards. In singles, the veteran battled through the qualifying and made it to the quarterfinals. “I had a great week here, playing eight or nine matches in six or seven days. It was quite a work but I enjoyed to compete here.”
The Frenchmen entered the draw with a wild card and were happy to leave with the champions’ trophies. “It is amazing, as Fabrice is one of my best friends. It is really great to win a title with him,” Chardy told during a funny on-court ceremony.
“It was a great crowd tonight and I just want to thank everyone for the support,” Martin added.