Djokovic To Face Berdych; Nadal Battles Into Doha SFs
Djokovic, Berdych to square off for 24th time
Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych will face off for a place in the Qatar ExxonMobil final on Friday.
World No. 1 Djokovic was made to work against Leonardo Mayer before winning 6-3, 7-5. The Argentine broke the Djokovic serve in the first game of the second set and served for it at 5-4, but the Serb swept the last four games of the match to advance.
“[Mayer] started better in both the first and second sets,” Djokovic said. “He was going for his shots and he’s a very complete player. The second set was close. It could have gone either way, but I stayed tough and fought through it. It was a good test and I’m glad to get through in straight sets.”
Berdych, who reached the final last year at this ATP World Tour 250 tournament, dismissed Kyle Edmund 6-3, 6-2. He saved all four break points on serve while capitalising on three of his 11 opportunities.
Djokovic and Berdych will be facing off for a third straight tournament, after the Serbian won their two clashes at the BNP Paribas Masters and Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November en route to the titles. He leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 21-2.
"I have played so many times against [him] and we know each other's game very well," said Djokovic. "We practised few times actually here before the tournament. He's always very solid. He's going to come out firing from all corners, especially forehand and serve. His big weapon, if he puts high percentage of first serves in, he can beat anybody, honestly. It's a bit quicker here, which he likes. He likes the lower bounce and can flatten the ball out. I'm going to have to up my game."
Rafael Nadal, the 2014 champion, converted five of his 10 break point opportunities in a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over No. 79-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov in a two-hour and eight-minute encounter.
“Kuznetsov played some amazing shots, so it was difficult to control the match,” Nadal said. “It’s true that I missed my serve more than I wanted to, but I really only played one bad game, at 4-3 in the second set. His returns were amazing and his level was very high. Fortunately I played a great third set, with a lot of intensity.”
The Spaniard will next face Illya Marchenko, who withstood 12 aces to beat seventh seed Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 7-6(3) for a place in his third ATP World Tour semi-final. Marchenko opened the week with victory over World No. 7 David Ferrer, the defending champion, and is through to the last four of a tour-level event for the first time since 2010 St. Petersburg (l. to Kukushkin).
Afterwards Marchenko admitted, "The most important match after you beat David is the next one. It's really difficult to handle the stress. Honestly, it was bad night for me. I couldn't sleep much."