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Rafael Nadal vs Andrey Kuznetsov ATP Doha tennis live: Nadal targets return to Qatar Open semifinals

Hannah Wilks in News 6 Jan 2016
  • Rafael Nadal faces Andrey Kuznetsov for a place in the semifinals of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Thursday
  • Unseeded Kuznetsov lost his only previous meeting with Nadal in straight sets
  • Nadal vs Kuznetsov is scheduled on court in Doha at 5pm local/2pm BST
Rafael Nadal (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Is Rafael Nadal headed to a date with destiny – or at least Novak Djokovic – at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open? He faces the unseeded Andrey Kuznetsov in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

Rafael Nadal faces Andrey Kuznetsov in the quarterfinals of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Thursday as his quest to reclaim his title at the very tournament where he last won a hard-court trophy continues.

After a dramatic first-round encounter with Pablo Carreno Busta saw Nadal drop the first set in the face of some stupendous play from his young compatriot, eventually prevailing in dominant style with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1 victory, matters were much simpler for Nadal at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Wednesday. Facing Robin Haase in the second round, Nadal comfortably dominated the hard-hitting Dutch player for a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

‘I played at a very high level against a good opponent today,’ Nadal said. ‘My serve was a little bit worse than yesterday, but in general I am happy with the victory and my level of tennis. I hit my returns with a lot of confidence.’

Nadal, now in the quarterfinals of the tournament he exited in shocking fashion in the first round 12 months ago at the hands of qualifier Michael Berrer, is certainly playing far better than he was a year ago and looks almost a shoe-in to reach the final. Seventh seed Jeremy Chardy is the only seed remaining in his half of the draw; fourth seed and defending champion David Ferrer – a projected semifinal opponent – fell in the first round to Ilya Marchenko and instead of facing Andreas Seppi in the quarterfinals as expected, he is up against the unseeded Andrey Kuznetsov.

Currently ranked world no. 79, Kuznetsov is best known (to me at least) for upsetting seventh seed David Ferrer to reach the third round of Wimbledon in 2014. He reached the third round of the French Open in 2015 and the quarterfinals of the ATP World Tour event in Moscow, but his success that season mainly took place on the Challenger circuit, where Kuznetsov won back-to-back titles in Como and Manerbio and finished runner-up at a further Challenger event in Scheveningen, as well as reaching semifinals in Istanbul.

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Making his inaugural main-draw appearance at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open after falling in qualifying in 2013, Kuznetsov defeated wildcard Marsel Ilhan 6-2, 6-4 and Ricardas Berankis 7-6(1), 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals and set up his second career meeting with Nadal. They met for the first time at last year’s French Open, when Nadal – who would ultimately fall in the quarterfinals to Novak Djokovic – beat Kuznetsov soundly, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

‘Kuznetsov is an aggressive player,’ Nadal said. ‘I played against him at Roland Garros a couple of years ago, and he made some great shots. I hope I’ll be able to play at the same level as today.’

Kuznetsov is certainly capable of some great shot-making, but he doesn’t really have the movement on hard courts to let him play the kind of defense or the kind of rallies which he would need to hang with Nadal over the course of two or three sets. It’s just possible that Kuznetsov, redlining his game like Carreno Busta did on Tuesday, could take a set, but even if that unlikely eventuality did take place, his challenge would almost certainly fade away. Another comprehensive straight-sets victory for Nadal should take place as he heads towards the final – and a meeting with Novak Djokovic that looks more and more likely.

Nadal and Kuznetsov are scheduled on court in Doha at 5pm local/2pm BST on Thursday

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Rafael Nadal vs Andrey Kuznetsov ATP Doha tennis live: Nadal targets return to Qatar Open semifinals

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