Doha 2017: Day-3. The Horacio Selfie

Day-3 of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open will be remembered for a rare “first” in Novak Djokovic’s career. Instead of heading directly to the locker room after the match, Novak’s opponent, Horacio Zeballos, grabbed his cellphone, strolled directly to Novak’s bench…and took a selfie with the defending champion. Novak loved it. Horacio will no doubt get some Twitter mileage from the moment.

As far as tennis was concerned, the most eye-opening performance came from World #68, Gerald Melzer. He stood toe-to-toe with the World #1. Gerald broke Murray twice in the first set, but fell short in the tie-break 8-6. Down a break in the second, he broke Murray again to level it at 5-all…but that would be his last game of the match. Seeing the result, most would assume Andy wasn’t playing top-notch tennis and simply squeeked out a win over Melzer. Not true. Murray was solid. Gerald matched his level and intensity.

Novak Djokovic. Horacio Zeballos. A memorable 2017 match

Andy Murray. Gerald Melzer. An epic performance from both

F. Verdasco (ESP) d [4] D. Goffin (BEL) 61 76(6)

Not a bad way to start 2017 for Fernando Verdasco…his first Quarterfinal appearance here in Doha, a city he calls home during the off-season. Verdasco’s forehand has been lethal. His will to win, even deadlier. David Goffin had seven break points in the first set. He converted zero. Verdasco won five straight games to take the set in 29-minutes. In the second, Fernando was up a break again on the World #11 (who just defeated both Tsonga and Murray in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship), but David broke back to level it at 5-all. They’d both give up serve again before Verdasco earned it in the tie-break. Fernando’s primal scream after the hand-shake shows just how fired-up he is, and how much expectation he’s put on himself to perform well here in Doha. NEXT: Ivo Karlovic
 

[2] N. Djokovic (SRB) d H. Zeballos (ARG) 63 64

Though a pedestrian match, and typical result for someone who spent 223-weeks as the Tour’s top-player, this one had entertaining moments of impressive shot-making. Zeballos forced Novak to earn the win, pushing the World #2 to up his game…and that he did. Djokovic won 40 of 47 service points. All of the fun-to-watch drama unfolded on his return. After the match, Novak thanked Horacio for the “selfie,” and talked a little about his “new look” team for 2017, including Dusan Vemic. NEXT: Radek Stepanek

Horacio Zeballos. The post match selfie with Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic praises Zeballos for the selfie after the match

Zeballos twitter message accompanying the photo: “I think I have the best selfie of the day lol. How awesome is Nole. A genius !! I loved it !!”

After bringing the next match on court, I ran into Horacio in the hall, cuddling with his daughter Emma, born in April. He was beaming. It was a great night. He finally got another shot in singles with one of the sport’s great champions, but most importantly, had his family around to enjoy it. Great stuff. Proud dad.
 

[1] A. Murray (GBR) d G. Melzer (AUT) 76(6) 75

Tonight, World #68 Gerald Melzer was a beast. Truth be told, so was Andy Murray. This was top-shelf, out of this world, what the hell just happened (??), kind of tennis. Melzer broke first. In fact he broke twice in the first set, but Murray was able to answer each time with breaks of his own. They battled through 6-all in the tie-break before Andy aced, then captured the set 8-6. Half-way through the second, Andy somehow turned it up a notch, blasting six aces to reach 3-all, then jumped ahead 4-3. Back against the wall, Melzer went all-in. At 3-5, he was down 2 match points and somehow managed the hold, then improbably broke the World #1 to level it at 5-all. But, that was it. Murray broke right back and served out the win 7-5. NEXT: Nicolas Almagro
 

[5] J. Tsonga (FRA) d D. Brown (GER) 61 63

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needed less than an hour to dispatch fan favorite Dustin Brown. The first set took only 17-minutes, and Tsonga punctuated his dominance with four straight aces in the final game. In set-2, Tsonga was up a break before the first sit-down, then earned the win on his return again. Jo-Wilfried was solid. He completely neutralized the “Dreddy Show” with his precision and power, keeping points short, avoiding long rallies. Tsonga is now 7-0 in Doha since capturing the title here in 2012. NEXT: Tomas Berdych