Monfils returns the ball to Germany’s Florian Mayer. The Frenchman won 6-3, 6-2, RIGHT: Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return to Peter Gojowczyk of Germany during their Qatar Open match at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha yesterday. Nadal won 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to set up a final clash with Gael Monfils of France.PICTURES BY: SALIM MATRAMKOT
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: World number one Rafael Nadal of Spain yesterday relied on his vast experience to nail a spot in today’s final after beating qualifier and one-time fan Peter Gojowczyk of Germany at the $1.5m Qatar Open.
Yet to win the first event of a new season in his entire playing career, Nadal survived a nervous start to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in 2 hours on the centre court to ensure at least one seeded player reached the Doha title clash.
In the final today, top seed Nadal will meet two-time finalist Gael Monfils of France. Monfils yesterday crushed Florian Mayer of Germany 6-3, 6-2 in 55 just minutes in the second semi-final.
Nadal, who lost the first three games of the first set, recovered in admirable fashion by winning the next two sets to reach his second final in Doha.
After yesterday’s win, Nadal is now equal with Michael Chang’s haul of 662 career wins on the Tour.
Nadal, who turned pro in 2001, said experience powered his game in the ‘tough’ semi-final.
“The experience of a lot of years on the Tour tells you that it is difficult to play - like the way he did - for one and a half hours on the court. But it happens,” Nadal said.
“I think he started the match playing really well,” Nadal said about Gojowczyk who last year approached the world number one for an autograph at the US Open.
“At the start, I played a few bad points and he played a few great points and he took the first set,” Nadal, 27, said.
“It was important to start the second set very quick and I had the advantage from the beginning (in the second set). I had the chance to play more aggressive and I did,” the 13-time Grand Slam champion said.
In the first set, Gojowczyk stormed to a three-nil lead following a service break in game two as the German reeled off nine consecutive points from the first serve.
Relying on his piercing returns, Nadal reduced the margin with a service break in game five (2-3) but Gojowczyk’s early momentum helped him to break the Spaniard in game 10 to take the first set.
Nadal switched gears in the second set, breaking Gojowczyk in games one and three to draw level in the match. In the third set, Nadal produced well examined returns to break Gojowczyk in games one, three and nine to take the set and the match.
Nadal said Gojowczyk’s fine run in Doha was praise worthy.
“He had a fantastic tournament and I want to wish him the best of luck the rest of the season,” Nadal said.
When asked about his sluggish start, Nadal said with a smile: “I just hoped he is not going to play (aggressive) like that in the match.”
Nadal said he was eager to show his fans he can win in Doha.
“I have never won here so it will be a special win. Tomorrow I have another opportunity to win. After trying a lot of times here, I can win now,” Nadal said.
“It (winning the title) will mean a lot to me,” Nadal said.
“It is a tournament I like to play. I have friends here – (QTF President) Nasser (Al Khelaifi) and (Tournament Director) Karim (Alami) and a few Spanish spectators here too,” the world number one said.
In the second semi-final, Monfils fired nine aces to overpower Mayer and set a date with Nadal.
“I am playing my third final here and I am very happy,” Monfils, yet to drop a set, said.
“Hopefully we are going to have a good one tomorrow.
“It is going to be interesting. He’s had an amazing year. He’s solid, you know,” Monfils said when reminded he had beaten Nadal twice in Doha.
Nadal leads their head-to-head 6-2.
“I think he has the confidence but I will make sure I have a great recovery and be strong in the final,” Monfils, said.
“Just one match to go and I will be ready for it,” the 27-year-old said.The Peninsula