World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is well on his way to his first title in Doha, as he battled through increased adversity over the past few days en route to the finals. While the tournament lacked top 20 players in the seeding, Nadal struggled at varying levels in all three of his matches; from Kamke and Gulbis, to his semi-final against Gojowczyk, the Spaniard has clearly not been at his best since the start of the season. With that being the case, he will now face the swashbuckling Frenchman Gael Monfils for the 11th time for the Qatar ExxonMobil Open title. The Nadal vs Monfils Head to Head stands at 8-2.
Rafa’s opening set against no. 162 ranked Gojowczyk was particularly surprising as struck just two winners and lost the first three games in the match, including 16 of the first 17 points, eventually dropping the set 6-4. He reversed his fortunes in the second set, earning a double-break to lead 4-0 and forcing a third set minutes later. Both players would exchange breaks early in the deciding set, with Nadal eventually breaking to love to secure the victory on his first match point.
“The positive thing is I am in the finals the first week of the season without arriving here with big preparation,” said Nadal. “Without playing my best, I was able to find a solution. It’s true that I finished the match playing better than what I started. That’s always a positive thing, because that means that mentally I was prepared to find solutions.”
In contrast of Rafa’s tiring semi-final contest, Gael Monfils needed only 55 minutes to end Germany’s Florian Mayer’s run in Doha with a 6-3, 6-2 victory. Monfils will be taking part in his 20th ATP World Tour title match and has not won a title since winning the Stockholm indoor tournament in 2011. The runner-up at the Doha may not have the most competitive rivalry with Nadal but he is certainly a tricky competitor and could trouble the relatively out-of-form Spaniard.
Of the ten professional encounters between the two competitors, Monfils has only managed two victories against Rafa, but holds the most recent victory, which happens to be their semi-final meeting from the 2012 Qatar Open. The Frenchman is comfortable on the hard courts in Doha and will be looking for a repeat of that performance. Rafa has not been at his best this week in Qatar but has managed to pull through to reach the finals and will likely manage another come
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Three Sets