David FerrerBesides Brisbane and Chennai, Doha was another world city, which simultaneously hosted one of the season-opening ATP events with rich field of tennis stars. While the ExxonMobil Open tournament threw up some shocks, it proved lucky for Spain’s world no.10 David Ferrer. Playing brilliant tennis all along, Ferrer won the title by beating another celebrity star world no.7 Tomas Berdych in the final on January 10, 2015. However, last year’s champion Rafael Nadal suffered a first round setback and Novak Djokovic lost in the quarterfinals. Nadal had been out of active tennis action since October after he lost to Croatian teenager Borna Coric in the Basel Open quarterfinals. After healing of his wrist injury and appendectomy operation, Nadal had been training hard and it was expected that he would begin his 2015 campaign on a strong note. That didn’t happen as Nadal was beaten in the first round by a little-known qualifier Michael Berrer of Germany in three sets. World no.1, Novak Djokovic also had a forgettable tournament in Doha, when he lost to Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic in a tough quarterfinal match. There was, however, something to light up Nadal’s return to ATP circuit as he combined with Argentina’s Juan Monaco to win the doubles crown.

In the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Saturday, world no.10 David Ferrer recorded his 22nd tour-level win, when he defeated Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-5 in the final. But the seemingly easy-looking score in the match for Ferrer was not without its twists and turns. In a contest lasting 1½ hours, Ferrer had to stave off a tough challenge from Berdych, who had an upper hand at some stages of the match. The luck, however didn’t favor the Czech as much as did the Spaniard. It began with Ferrer racing away to a double break lead in the first set. Although, Berdych got one back to make it 4-2 and had two more break points, when Ferrer served at 5-4, the Spaniard had his way to take the set 6-4. The two players exchanged breaks at the beginning of the second set and then continued to hold their serves until the 11th game. The 32-year old Ferrer finally converted a break opportunity to move to 6-5 and then held his serve to win the match. Berdych was unlucky that he failed to convert any one of the three set points that he held in the 10th game. The Czech had a great tournament himself as he lost just 16 games on the road to the final and allowed Ferrer to ride his luck. Now Ferrer has an 8-5 head-to-head score against the Czech. After Nadal last year, Ferrer was the second consecutive Spaniard to win at Qatar as he collected the winner’s trophy from the former England football legend David Beckham. Ferrer won 71 per cent of first serve points and saved six out of eight break points that he faced.

In the semifinal earlier, Ferrer had survived an onslaught of aces from Ivo Karlovic, the Croat who had demolished Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinal earlier. Karlovic sent down 40 aces and produced 67 winners against Ferrer in three hard-fought sets, all of which were decided in tie-breaks. Ferrer finally held his nerves and clinched the match 6-7, 7-6, 7-6. Despite his defeat, Karlovic crossed a milestone of 9092 aces to fall second behind the all-time high of Goran Ivanisevic, who has more than 10000 against his name. The Croat also had the satisfaction of defeating world no.1 Novak Djokovic 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinal. Karlovic served 21 aces and 49 winners against Djokovic but lost to Ferrer in the semifinal.

Another story at Doha concerned world no.3 Rafael Nadal. The gifted Spaniard suffered a shocking first round loss against Germany’s Michael Berrer, who had to qualify for his entry in the tournament.  After winning the first set easily, Nadal literally presented the match to Berrer on a platter as he lost 6-1, 3-6, 4-6 on the second day of the competition. However, the former world no.1 had something on his name as he and his Argentine doubles partner Juan Monaco clinched the men’s doubles crown by beating Australian duo of Julian Knowle and Phillipp Oswald 6-3, 6-4. For Nadal, it was the fourth doubles title at Qatar after he won here in 2005, 2009 and 2011.