France's Monfils beats Nadal at last, in Qatar quarter-finals
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France's Gaël Monfils signed his first victory at the Qatar Open's quarter-finals in Doha, beating top seed Rafael Nadal in straight sets (6-4, 6-4). The 22-year-old Frenchman will play against Andy Roddick in the next round.
AFP - Rafael Nadal made a miserable start to the first season he has ever begun as world number one, losing in the Qatar Open quarter-finals to Gael Monfils in less than an hour and a half on Thursday.
But although the Wimbledon, French Open and Olympic champion was not at his best, he certainly did enough to have survived against most other players apart from the superbly in-form Monfils.
The 22-year-old Frenchman reminded everyone during his 6-4, 6-4 win that he was tipped as a future world number one himself and that he still has the speed of foot, the weight of shot, the passion, and enough time left to achieve that goal.
It did though raise questions as to whether or not Nadal - who was also beaten by Andy Murray in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi on Sunday - might have had his off-season preparation affected by the troublesome knee injuries which caused him to miss the last two events of 2008.
Nadal began by trying to impose a few more attacking patterns on the rallies than usual, but was soon forced back into defence by Monfils's ability to make counter-attacks, often with sudden strident hits down the lines.
The Spaniard then settled into rhythms more similar to his clay court rallying from behind the baseline, mixed in with a few forays forward, and looked likely to prosper from the cumulative pressure as the scores remained level.
But though he started to have some success with this, he was often discomforted by the unexpectedness of Monfils' attacks, and played two indifferent games at the end of each set which cost him the match.
At the end, the world number 13 leapt with joy back on to the court to take the crowd's enthusiastic applause, while Nadal departed virtually unheralded.
"That feels fantastic," said Monfils, who now has a semi-final with Andy Roddick.
If he wins he will emulate his achievement of three years ago, when he reached the final here, playing a good match against Roger Federer.
Nadal's best moments came after he went a break down at 3-1 - the result of two outrageous down-the-line winners by Monfils - and was able to repair the damage with the help of an erratic game by Monfils.
The top seed then got to love-30 on Monfils service immediately afterwards and had he won either of the next two points might well have broken serve and gone on to win the first set.
But Monfils produced good first serve to set up a wining forehand drive approach and then an ace.
He was then full of bounce and zest in the next game, finishing it with a powerful drive straight to Nadal's body as the Spaniard gambled at the net, eliciting a defensive volley into the net tape.
The second set saw Nadal played near to his best to avoid going 1-3 down again, but he never made headway against the forceful and well-placed Monfils serves, often choosing to receive the first serve from 12 feet back in order to get safely into the rallies.
A signal of the end came when, serving at 4-5, and with the court mostly open, Nadal put a drop shot into the net on the first point.
He then served a double fault on the second and made two forced errors from forehand topspin drives on the last two points, with Monfils attacking energetically.
Later Thursday, Roger Federer tackles Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber while Murray faces Sergiy Stakhovsky of the Ukraine.
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