Doha: Day-3 delivers top seeds to the QF

After Tuesday’s upset tsunami – punctuated by Rafael Nadal’s loss to Michael Berrer – calm seas returned to Doha’s draw on Wednesday as the remaining seeds comfortably sailed through to the Quarterfinals. However in the doubles draw, the only seeded team remaining – Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (2-time titlists in 8 career finals) – sank in straight sets to the wild card Serbians, Filip Krajinovic and Novak Djokovic.

That said – fans will be lining up early on Thursday to find a seat in Stadium-1, just off center court. The doubles semifinals start at 5:00p, and the evening’s second match will feature two studs most were hoping to see clash in the singles final: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Rafa advanced with partner Juan Monaco after a nail biter on Wednesday, defeating Becker and Sitak in a match tie-break.

Thursday’s quarterfinals here in Doha will see some intriguing, early season matchups. Novak Djokovic hasn’t faced Ivo Karlovic since 2008, and at 35-years-old, Ivo is playing some of the most-consistent tennis of his career. They played two matches that year. Novak won the first in Hamburg 7-6(3), 6-3. Ivo won the second in Madrid 7-6(4), 7-6(5). Karlovic has slayed top-seeds in Doha before (Tomas Berdych in the 1R last year), and no doubt relishes these rare opportunities to test his game againsts the world’s top-ranked player.

Honestly – I’m no tennis expert or insider – but the two seeds who appear to truly have their sh@t together for this year’s tournament: Tomas Berdych and 2013 Doha Champion Richard Gasquet. Both are serving well, both appear in top condition, and both are playing with a chip on their shoulder; with something to prove. Thursday, they’ll go toe-to-toe in the quarterfinals.

Last year, Berdych was bounced early by Karlovic. Sure, he went on to win the doubles title with Jan Hayek, but he had to scramble to find exhibition-play for time-on-court prior to the Australian Open. This year, he’s already won the inaugural World Tennis Thailand Championship and his first two matches in Doha. His new coach, Danny Vallverdu (5-years with Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl) is hungry and has something to prove. As Tomas said on court after his match tonight, Berdych and Vallverdu are 100% in the New Year: So far so good. Defeating Milos Raonic in the Thailand final was a nice confidence boost…but the Gasquet quarter here in Doha is for points.

Richard Gasquet won the Doha title in 2013. Last year, after the long flight from Paris, he tweaked his back during his first practice session. He managed a 1R win over a wildcard, then fell in two to Gael Monfils. No question – the injury had a negative impact on his whole season. After Miami, he took-off the entire month of April to rest-up for Roland Garros, where he fell in the third round. Through the summer, Richard managed a finals appearance in Eastbourne and a semifinal appearance in Washington DC, but with no significant results the rest of the way, he watched his ranking slide from #9 in January to #26 in December. He’s determined to establish positive momentum early in 2015. He’s won here before. He’s ready to make last year a distant memory…and the first TRUE test starts Thursday with Berdych.

David Ferrer will start Thursday’s play on center court, as he faces a Doha favorite: Dustin Brown of Germany. Dustin was given entry into the main draw after Dominic Theim pulled out of the tournament. Last year, Dreddy reached the quarters by posting wins over Ivan Dodig and Ivo Karlovic, while Ferrer was eliminated in the second-round by another German, Daniel Brands.

Andreas Seppi and Ivan Dodig fill the voids left by Nadal and 8-seed Leonardo Mayer’s first round losses. They’ll play the last quarterfinal on center court Thursday night. Currently, Seppi’s ranked #45; Dodig #89. They faced each other twice last year. Dodig won in Toronto: 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5). Seppi won in Moscow: 7-5, 7-6(3). Seppi’s been to the Doha quarterfinals once before, back in 2012 where he lost in three to Roger Federer. In three tries, Dodig has never been out of the first round.

Full Results – Second Round singles matches:
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) d S Stakhovsky (UKR) 62 61
[3] T Berdych (CZE) d [Q] B Kavcic (SLO) 61 62
[4] D Ferrer (ESP) d F Verdasco (ESP) 63 62
[6] R Gasquet (FRA) d S Bolelli (ITA) 63 62
[7] I Karlovic (CRO) d [Q] N Basilashvili (GEO) 76(3) 63
D Brown (GER) d J Struff (GER) 76(9) 64
A Seppi (ITA) d J Souza (BRA) 75 62
I Dodig (CRO) d [Q] M Berrer (GER) 76(1) 62

Full Results – Quarterfinal doubles matches:
[WC] N Djokovic (SRB) / F Krajinovic (SRB) d [3] J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) 63 75
J Monaco (ARG) / R Nadal (ESP) d B Becker (GER) / A Sitak (NZL) 26 63 10-6
D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) d D Inglot (GBR) / F Mergea (ROU) 36 63 10-5
J Knowle (AUT) / P Oswald (AUT) d L Rosol (CZE) / S Stakhovsky (UKR) 63 75

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Order of play for tomorrow: 8 January 2015

CENTER COURT start 3:30 pm
[4] D Ferrer (ESP) vs D Brown (GER)
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) vs [7] I Karlovic (CRO)
[6] R Gasquet (FRA) vs [3] T Berdych (CZE)
A Seppi (ITA) vs I Dodig (CRO)

COURT 1 start 5:00 pm
D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) vs J Knowle (AUT) / P Oswald (AUT)
J Monaco (ARG) / R Nadal (ESP) vs [WC] N Djokovic (SRB) / F Krajinovic (SRB)