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Nadal Tested Again In Doha

Doha, Qatar

Gojowczyk© AFP/Getty ImagesPeter Gojowcyzk is the fourth qualifier to reach the Doha semi-finals in tournament history.

Top seed Rafael Nadal pushed into the semi-finals of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha Thursday after a gritty 7-5, 6-4 win over World No. 24 Ernests Gulbis, who continues to challenge the Spaniard.

Nadal, who last year had to rally from a set down in Indian Wells and Rome to beat the 25-year-old Latvian, again found the going tough before ultimately extending his perfect record against Gulbis to 7-0. “It was my best match [of the tournament] today," Nadal said. "If you are not playing well it's very, very difficult, no? He's a very dangerous player. He's able to hit winners from every part on the court.”

Even when the Spaniard finally appeared to be in control at 6-5 40/0 in the first set, Gulbis fought back to deuce, pressuring Nadal to serve out the set. Gulbis also raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set before the Spaniard responded to win six of the last seven games of the match.

Nadal is the only seeded player to advance to the semi-finals, which will be played Friday ahead of Saturday's final. The World No. 1 reached the Doha final in 2010, losing in three sets to Nikolay Davydenko, but is yet to win the title.

After winning 10 titles from 14 finals in 2013 and reclaiming the year-end No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking, Nadal will be hoping to continue his momentum in 2014, where he again is likely to face tough competition from Novak Djokovic for the World No. 1 ranking.

Nadal, who needed three sets to beat German Tobias Kamke in the round of 16, next faces German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk, who reached his first ATP World Tour semi-final on Thursday. Gojowczyk, who had won just one tour-level match prior to this week, defeated fellow qualifier and German Dustin Brown 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) in just under two hours.

At last year’s US Open, Gojowczyk asked Nadal for an autograph. But Nadal said that adulation would not count for much on Friday. “When you are in semi-finals, doesn't matter if you ask me for autograph a few months before. I know he’s gonna go on court trying to win, and I need to play my best, continuing playing better and better every day. I saw him play today. He can play very well.”

The 24 year old follows in the footsteps of previous Doha semi-final qualifiers Rainer Schuettler (the 1999 champion), Bohdan Ulihrach (2001 runner-up) and Daniel Brands (2013).

Gojowczyk admitted that Nadal congratulated him on his victory. “I met him now in the locker room and he said, ‘Congrats, Peter.’ It's nice. Now I think he knows me now. I think I asked him for his signature in New York [at the] US Open last year. I met him also in the locker room, and I said, ‘Can I get a signature?’”

Florian Mayer joined Gojowczyk in the semi-finals, backing up his win over two-time champion Andy Murray with a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-4 win over Romanian Victor Hanescu

The 30-year-old German closed out the match on his eighth match point. He held four match points at 6-3 and 7-6 in the second set tie-break, then three more at 0/40 in the final game before finally converting on his eighth opportunity.

Mayer, who is making his tournament debut this week, will next face Gael Monfils, a two-time Doha finalist. The Frenchman has won all four of their previous meetings.

Monfils needed just 49 minutes to dismiss Brands 6-2, 6-1. He lost just 10 points on serve and broke the German four times. 

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Doubles Final Set
Top seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares will play Czechs Tomas Berdych and Jan Hajek for the Doha doubles title. Peya and Soares defeated third seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo 6-3, 6-3, while Berdych and Hajek advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Germans Christopher Kas and Philipp Kohlschreiber

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