Nadal, Djokovic To Face Off For Doha Title
Historic rivalry renewed
Rafael Nadal will attempt to capture his first ATP World Tour hard-court title for two years on Saturday when he plays familiar foe Novak Djokovic in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open final. "I know if I'm playing well, I am going to have opportunities," said Nadal. The top seeds will meet for a record 47th time on the ATP World Tour. The series is currently tied 23-all, with Djokovic winning the past four matches.
Nadal, who won the 2014 title, booked a place in his 99th tour-level final (67-31 record) by knocking out World No. 94 Illya Marchenko 6-3, 6-4 in 78 minutes. Meanwhile, Djokovic downed the Czech Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-6(3) to reach his 16th consecutive final.
"I did a few good things, and I'm happy with the victory, being in the first final of the season in the first official tournament is something great," said Nadal. "For sure it's important for my confidence, confirming that the end of the 2015 season had been something realistic and [in] the beginning of 2016 I [am] still playing well."
Nadal opened up a 3-0 lead in the first set, which he won in 35 minutes. With a string of winners, Marchenko recovered from 15/40 in the opening game of the second set, but Nadal soon applied the pressure and broke to love for a 3-2 advantage.
Marchenko, appearing in his third ATP World Tour semi-final, defeated defending champion David Ferrer in the first round and overcame No. 7 seed Jeremy Chardy in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic improved his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Berdych to 22-2 with victory in the second semi-final. The World No. 1 dropped serve in the opening game of the match, but did not falter on serve the rest of the way and closed out the win in just under two hours.
Djokovic now stands two back of Ivan Lendl's Open Era record of 18 straight finals in 1981-82. Roger Federer also advanced to 17 in a row, from June 2005 to August 2006.
“I'm very proud of the achievements and this particular stat,” he said of the streak. “But I try not to think about what would happen if I would lose or not get to the finals. This is exactly how I want to start the year, playing in the finals of the first tournament against one of my biggest rivals and I'm looking forward to that.
“It always represents a great challenge to play Nadal because of the fact that we have played so many times for the trophies.”