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Nadal Survives Gojowczyk Test, Faces Monfils In Doha Final

Doha, Qatar

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal battled back to defeat Peter Gojowczyk in the Doha semi-finals.

Rafael Nadal withstood a stern test from World No. 162 Peter Gojowczyk on Friday, halting the German qualifier’s Cinderella run at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Nadal prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in just under two hours, overcoming a rusty start to advance to Saturday’s final in Doha.

Nadal, who is the only seed remaining in the draw, registered his 662nd match win on the ATP World Tour, pulling even with Michael Chang for 13th on the all-time list. The Spaniard also improved to 75-1 in his career when facing a qualifier, with his lone defeat coming nearly a decade ago, against Julien Benneteau at Lyon in 2004.

A year after appearing in a career-high 14 finals, the World No. 1 will face either Gael Monfils in his first of 2014. His previous best showing in Doha came in 2010 when he finished runner-up to Nikolay Davydenko

"The positive thing is I am in the finals the first week of the season without arriving here with big preparation," said Nadal. "Without playing my best, I was able to find a solution. It's true that I finished the match playing better than what I started. That's always a positive thing, because that means that mentally I was prepared to find solutions."

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Gojowczyk, meanwhile, was competing in his first ATP World Tour semi-final. He was just the fourth qualifier to reach the semis in Doha since the tournament began in 1993. "It is the best week of my career," he said. "I'm really happy and I hope I learn from it and gain confidence. I have to play qualies in Melbourne on Wednesday, so it's close but it's tough. But I will give my best there and I hope to see you again."

The German sprinted out of the gates to open the match, winning the first nine points to break Nadal for an early 3-0 lead. Nadal would pull level at 3-3 but was unable to overcome a strong baseline performance from Gojowczyk, who was not intimidated by the magnitude of the situation. 

Nadal struck just two winners in the first set but reversed his fortunes as the match progressed, securing an insurmountable double break lead for 4-0 in the second set and breaking again to open the third. Both players would exchange breaks early in the deciding set, with Nadal eventually breaking to love to secure the victory on his first match point. Gojowczyk was hurt by 35 unforced errors and a first serve percentage that hovered around 50 per cent for the majority of the match.

"I think beginning of the second set was very important," Nadal added. "I started with a little bit higher rhythm, I think, without doing something very spectacular, but improving a little bit the rhythm.  Seriously, at the beginning, I felt that he was playing too comfortable every shot."

In the second semi-final, Gael Monfils needed 55 minutes to dispatch Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-2. Monfils was broken in the first game of the match but stayed the course, reeling off 12 of the next 16 games for the decisive victory. The Frenchman fired nine aces and broke Mayer's serve four times.

Monfils will be competing in his 20th title bout on the ATP World Tour, with his most recent title coming on the indoor hard courts of Stockholm in 2011. The runner-up at the Doha, Monfils has won just two matches in 10 career FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Nadal.

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