Rafael Nadal into semifinals of Qatar Open in Doha
Beats Ernests Gulbis 7-5 6-4 in hard-fough last eight match
Spaniard has never won Qatar title
Lleyton Hewitt into last eight of Brisbane International
There is a saying in sport which goes along the lines “take each match as it comes” so as not to get distracted by what might happen in the future and that is exactly the approach Rafael Nadal is taking to the Qatar Open.
He may be world number one and with the Australian Open just around the corner, but the Spaniard wants this particular title in his trophy cabinet for the first time and showed his typical steel to see off the dangerous Ernests Gulbis Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Nadal was fully extended by the talented Latvian, who had chances in the opener and led 3-0 in the second set, before he turned up the heat in typical style.
Fists pumping with every winner, he ran off five straight games before sealing the match 7-5 6-4 to reach the last four.
Asked about using the matches as “preparation” for the opening grand slam of the season, Nadal told the court side announcer that he was only focusing on success in Qatar for now.
“This is a tournament I really like to play in but have never had the chance to win,” he said.
“I’m just thinking about Doha at the moment and not looking ahead to the Australian Open.”
Nadal lost in the 2010 final to Nikolay Davydenko and has found it hard to produce his best form in the season-opener, but with three wins under his belt this time around at the Khalifa Tennis Complex, he does indeed look well set for a crack at a 14th grand slam title later this month.
He will now play qualifier Peter Gojowczyk, who earlier beat dreadlocked Dustin Brown 7-5 in the third set tie-breaker in an all-German encounter.
The other semifinal will pit Florian Mayer, who beat third seed Andy Murray in the second round, against Gael Monfils of France.
Germany’s Mayer survived a lengthy three-setter against Victor Hanescu, eventually beating the Romanian 6-4 6-7 6-4.
Monfils, who followed Nadal on court, breezed past German Daniel Brands 6-2 6-1 in just 48 minutes in impressive style.
In other ATP Tour action, Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt upset sixth seed Feliciano Lopez of Spani 7-5 6-3 to reach the last eight of the Brisbane International.
The former Wimbledon champion battled back from 5-3 in the opener to claim victory in one hour and 39 minutes.
He will face Romanian qualifier Marius Copil, who caused an upset as he ousted third seed Gilles Simon 7-5 6-3 in 88 minutes, for a place in the semifinals.
Nadal’s great rival Roger Federer is top seed at the Australian Open warm-up event.