Doha: SF wins deliver “Novak vs Rafa XLVII”

There’s nothing better than launching into a new season with a finals appearance; better still…a title. Hopeful Olympians Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez proved they have the on-court chemistry to represent Spain in the Rio Olympic Games this August, delivering a convincing win over Phillip Petzschner and Alexander Peya in the Doha Final: 6-4, 6-3.

With a win over the 2-seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares on Thursday, they reached their first final together since Valencia in 2004…12 years ago. They hadn’t played as a team since Miami 2012. Yet they endured two match tie-breaks to finally capture their first doubles title together. It is Marc’s third Doha doubles title, adding to the trophies he earned here with Rafael Nadal in 2009 and 2011.

FF: [3] F. Lopez (ESP) / M. Lopez (ESP) d [4] P. Petzschner (GER) / A. Peya (AUT) 64 63
SF: [3] F. Lopez (ESP) / M. Lopez (ESP) d [2] J. Murray (GBR) / B. Soares (BRA) 36 63 10-5
QF: [3] F. Lopez (ESP) / M. Lopez (ESP) d S. Bolelli (ITA) / S. Stakhovsky (UKR) 62 67(3) 10-6
R1: [3] F. Lopez (ESP) / M. Lopez (ESP) d W. Koolhof (NED) / M. Middelkoop (NED) 76(5) 64

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In Friday’s first semifinal, Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko was on the hunt for his first career top-10 win and first ATP World Tour finals appearance. The World #94 had posted upset wins over David Ferrer, Teymuraz Gabashvili and Jeremy Chardy…but Friday would mark the end of his Doha run, as 2014 Champion Rafael Nadal slammed the brakes on Marchenko’s momentum with a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win. Overall, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open was an amazingly positive vault into the new year for Illya, and he’ll cruise into week-2 ranked just outside the top-70.

Rafael Nadal. A new outlook on the new year...

Rafael Nadal’s confidence is high…something he struggled with through most of last year. He’s playing focused, agressive tennis, serving well, hitting his spots with pace, and scrambling for every ball. His court vision is sharp and he’s ripping the felt off his returns. As he enters his 99th career final tomorrow, he shows no signs of doubting his level of play versus Djokovic and plans on gaining the edge in their career head-to-head 24-23.

Novak Djokovic. Respect for Tomas Berdych

Novak Djokovic faced his toughest test of the tournament on Friday night, dropping Tomas Berdych in a second-set tie-break to earn a spot in his first career Doha Final: 6-3, 7-6(3). Similar to his quarterfinal with Mayer, Novak was broken in the first game. Berdych, a finalist here last year, looked solid…until a double-fault leveled the set at 3-all. Djokovic would win the next three games. In the 2nd set, Tomas was back in rhythm, holding pace with the World #1. At 3-all, the match turned into a grind with long, extended rallies punctuated by athletic defense and remarkable winners. They held serve through the tie-break where Novak’s experience under pressure carried him to the Final.

After the match, Novak talked about his respect for Berdych’s game and how he relishes the opportunity to break his 23-match tie with Nadal in the Final.

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RESULTS. Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2016. Semifinal Singles.
[1] N. Djokovic (SRB) d [3] T. Berdych (CZE) 63 76(3)
[2] R. Nadal (ESP) d I. Marchenko (UKR) 63 64

RESULTS. Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2016. Doubles Championship.
[3] F. Lopez (ESP) / M. Lopez (ESP) d [4] P. Petzschner (GER) / A. Peya (AUT) 64 63

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Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2016 – Day-6 Order of Play
Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2016 – Updated Singles Draw
Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2016 – Complete Doubles Draw