In the first of what will presumably be may awaited match-ups this season, top seed Rafael Nadal successfully went head-to-head with the only remaining seed at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Latvian Ernests Gulbis, to secure a semifinal berth in Doha. Rafa defeated Gulbis in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4.
Given the performances from both players in their last few match-ups, where a deciding set was needed for Rafa to seal the win, and the reputation earned by Gulbis as a no-holds-barred opponent both on-court and in press conferences, nothing short of a nail-biter was anticipated. Adding to that was Rafa’s performance against Kamke yesterday; what should have been a routine match was anything but, and Gulbis has always been seen as a “threat” to Rafa, despite never having defeated him. The action, though, was mostly supplied by the rain, which briefly interrupted the match into the second game of the first set. The first set was fairly even up until the end, with Rafa breaking Gulbis for the second time and holding serve to take the set at 7-5. The second set raced quickly in Gulbis’s favor, with Rafa down 0-3. Thereafter, as expected, Rafa returned to claim the set and win at 6-4.
Rafa’s next opponent is German Peter Gojowczyk in the semifinal. Congratulations, and Vamos!
Photos: REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous