Doha 2017: Day-4. Murray’s 27th Win

[lightbox link=”” thumb=”×300.png” width=”254″ align=”right” title=”” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=””]Andy Murray’s win-streak is now up to 27 consecutive matches, though he had to battle with Nicolas Almagro to extend the streak and reach tomorrow’s Semifinals. Always animated on-court, regularly barking at his box, Andy actually took it to another level tonight. His body language and facial expressions screamed sarcastic self-loathing…which he acknowledged in our post match interview, telling me it’s best we not hear the brutal internal banter he unloads on himself week-one of the season.

Andy will face Tomas Berdych in the Semifinals. In his dominant win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas showed-off the “new look” serve and came to net often, delivering the complete package that he’s been developing with Goran Ivanisevic. Meanwhile, Fernando Verdasco cruised past a wounded Ivo Karlovic, while Novak Djokovic denied Radek Stepanek a chance to gain momentum, despite Radek’s tendency toward thrilling theatrics.

On a personal note, it was pretty humbling to find my face splashed across page-15 of the Qatar Tribune this morning.

F. Verdasco (ESP) d [6] I. Karlovic (CRO) 62 75

Two years ago, Ivo Karlovic defeated Novak Djokovic in the Doha Quarters, earning the win 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. He’d go on to fall in three tie-break sets to eventual champion David Ferrer in the Semis. On Thursday, knee problems kept him from pushing off and pounding his signature serve. Verdasco, who’s forehand has been on fire this week, broke Karlovic before the first sit-down, then earned the first set 6-2. Karlovic held pace in the second, finally earning a break opportunity at 4-3, but he couldn’t convert. At 5-all, three unforced errors from Ivo at the net handed Verdasco the only break of the set, and ultimately the match.

After the win, Fernando thanked the Emir and Nassar Bin Ghanim Al Khelaifi for being in attendance. Clearly, this is an important week for Fernando. With a place in Doha, he spends a lot of time in Qatar, especially during the off-season. He hasn’t dropped a set in his first Semifinal run. NEXT: Novak Djokovic

[2] N. Djokovic (SRB) d [Q] R. Stepanek (CZE) 63 63

At 38-years-old, Radek Stepanek is proving that age is just a number. It’s been 13-years since he’s been back in Doha, and this is the best week he’s put together in four appearances. Though he fell in two to Novak, he’s still alive in the Doubles draw with partner Vasek Pospisil. In fact, he and Vasek will compete in the Final tomorrow, after Verdasco and Almagro withdrew from doubles to focus solely on today’s Singles matches.

The funniest moment from this match: Down 2-4 in the first, Djokovic on serve, Stepanek pummeled a backhand winner past the World #2 and launched into celebratory theatrics, marching his way back to the bench…however, the score was 30-40. While Novak did get it to deuce, Radek was able to save face by eventually earning his only break of the match. After the win, Novak talked about his respect for Radek, who’s still playing top-level tennis at 38-years-old. NEXT: Fernando Verdasco

[1] A. Murray (GBR) d N. Almagro (ESP) 76(4) 75

Another slow start for Team Andy. Almagro broke the World #1 straight out of the gate and looked to have the edge most of the set; but doubt crept into Nico’s head serving to go up 5-3. Instead, Murray leveled it, then sealed the set with a 7-3 victory in the tie-break. In the second, both dropped serve early, then Andy scored a timely break to go up 6-5 before serving out the win. Though it sounds like an easy win for Murray, Almagro made him work for it, especially in the final two games. Nico had a break point to force a second-set tie-break, but couldn’t covert. NEXT: Tomas Berdych

[3] T. Berdych (CZE) d [5] J. Tsonga (FRA) 75 63

This is the match-play design Tomas Berdych and Goran Inanisevic have been working on…the low-toss power serve, coming into the net, taking time away from the opponent, and busting ass with court coverage. Berdych’s scrambling and return of serve earned him the first set, breaking Tsonga at 6-5. In set-2, Tomas earned another break right after the first changeover – then served out the match. Like Almagro in the previous match, Tsonga didn’t go away quietly. He erased two match points before Berdych finally put him away. NEXT: Andy Murray

Updated Singles Draw | Updated Doubles Draw | Day 5 Order of Play