- Qatar - Rafael Nadal - Roger Federer - tennis
Federer and Nadal advance to quarters in Qatar
World number one, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal have reached the quarter-finals in Qatar. Both players haven't conceded a single set during their advance, indicating their form at the beginning of this new season.
AFP - Roger Federer, aiming to regain a title he last won four years ago, reached the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open with a performance which for the second successive day suggested he is starting the new season well rested and in fine shape.
The Grand Slam record-breaker won 6-2, 6-4 against Evgeny Korolev, a young and rising Russian on the verge of the world's top 50 who hit ambitiously but looked capable of achieving more than he actually did.
Federer contained him well, moved excellently, prevented his inexperienced opponent from feeling comfortable, and from time to time had moments of sublime attacking, which helped maintain an intimidating aura.
"This was a more dangerous match than my first one because he is a big ball striker and plays aggressive on forehand and backhand," Federer said.
"Conditions were difficult today, it was very slow out there and I had to be patient and grind it out, so I was happy with the way I adapted and with the way the match went."
Federer was helped by several moments when Korolev beat himself - perhaps overly aware of Federer's reputuation - notably after he broke the great man's serve to get back to 2-3, only to play a poor service game himself.
Then unaccountably Korolev failed to appeal against a line call on the opening point of the final game, when he was serving to save the match.
Hawkeye was showing as on the line a drive which had been called out, but the Russian missed his chance to get the decision overturned.
By contrast at 15-30 Federer appealed against another 'out' call, on his own drive this time, and got it reversed, taking the score to 15-40 and giving him two match points.
Korolev fought back bravely and saved both of them but still lost that game and the match. Had he appealed, as Federer did, he should have reached 5-5 with all to play for.
Federer is seeded to play a final on Saturday against his greatest rival, Rafael Nadal, who looked particularly pumped up after dismissing Potito Starace, a former top 30 player from Italy, by 6-2, 6-2.
Asked if he were particularly keen to start this year well, after going the last eight months of 2009 without a title, Nadal replied: "It's always important to start every season well."
But the former world number one did volunteer that he had worked exceptionally hard during the off season, strengthening the muscles above and below his knees, in an effort to reduce the repeated problems he has had with them.
"The season is long," Nadal said.
"If I want to have chances I have to be there all the time, fighting every match, trying like this, the right way, all the time.
"If I do I will have chances (to win big titles). I don't know if it will be now or in three months time. But I will have them."
Nadal next plays Steve Darcis, a Belgian qualifier who was too fresh and fast for Younes El Aynaoui, winning 6-3, 6-1 against an opponent who the day before became the oldest player since Jimmy Connors in 1995 to win a singles match on the ATP World Tour.
Even though competing twice in two days proved too much for a 38-year-old body which had not competed on tour since 2008, El Aynaoui still had cause to remember fondly his one-sided loss.
The champion here in 2002 and once a world top 20 player, the highly popular Moroccan was presented with a special trophy on court to mark his last ever match on the tour.
Federer next plays another dangerously hard-hitting opponent, Ernests Gulbis, the 21-year-old Latvian whom many thought might be pushing into the top 20 by now and who beat Andreas Seppi, the smooth-stroking Italian, 6-4 7-5.
There was also a win for Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian who beat Federer on the way to winning the ATP World Tour Masters in London four weeks ago, and who is seeded to meet the world number one in Friday's semi-finals.
Davydenko beat Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland 6-3, 6-4 and appeared to have recovered well from the bronchitis which caused him to play with anti-biotics in last week's exhibition event in Abu Dhabi.