Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 5th 2014 Contents A47
January 5, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
DOHA, Qatar---Rafael Nadal
opened his 2014 campaign by
winning his first title of the year
in defeating Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-
7 (5), 6-2 at the Qatar Open yes-
Nadal showed why he's the top
player in the world all week long.
Although he wasn't in top form
in this first event of the season,
he battled to win his 61st career
title, one shy of Guillermo Vilas'
total, seventh on the all-time
Open era list.
"I think I played my best match
of the season --- of the tournament
--- today," Nadal said after the
exciting, two-hour final. "I was
happy with how I played."
Of the five matches Nadal
played this week he was taken the
three-set distance three times: By
Tobias Kamke in the second
round, Peter Gojowczyk in the
quarterfinals, and then by Mon-
"The important thing is that I
had a chance to survive after very
tough matches this week," he said.
"And it was a tougher match
against a tougher opponent in the
"It's very exciting to start the
year with a title."
Nadal, who reached the cham-
pionship match in Doha in 2010,
has been in the final of 15 of his
last 18 tournaments. Last year he
won a career-high 10 titles.
Nadal holds a 9-2 record
against Monfils. The Frenchman
previously won both of their
meetings in Doha, in the 2009
quarterfinals and 2012 semifinals.
The 31st-ranked Monfils has
been in three Doha finals, but will
again go home without the trophy.
He's appeared in 20 career finals,
but won only four.
"Rafa is strong, hitting hard the
ball," Monfils said. "It's always
tough to play against him, and at
the end he was a bit better than
Nadal dominated the first set,
taking it in just 23 minutes. Mon-
fils managed to hold serve only
in the sixth game.
"If I play like I did in the first
set I'll be very competitive in Mel-
bourne," Nadal said of the upcom-
ing Australian Open.
In the second set it was all
about Monfils to start, as the
Frenchman could do no wrong en
route to a 3-0 lead.
Although Nadal recouped the
service break in the seventh game
when Monfils netted a backhand,
he couldn't bypass the Frenchman
in the tiebreaker.
Nadal saved thee Monfils set
points at 6-3 in the tiebreaker,
but on the fourth Monfils nailed
the set with an ace.
In the third set, Nadal broke
Monfils in the fourth game when
the Frenchman shipped two fore-
hands long from 30-30.
Leading 3-1, Nadal saved four
break points on his serve in the
fifth game to take a 4-1 lead.
Nadal broke serve again on a
second match point in the final
game when Monfils sailed a fore-
This was one time Ser-
ena Williams didn't
mind being pushed into
the deep end, to use her
Williams carried her win-
ning momentum from
2013 into the new season,
beating No. 2-ranked Vic-
toria Azarenka 6-4, 7-5
on Saturday to defend her
title at the Brisbane Inter-
national and set the tone
for the Australian Open.
She extended her win-
ning streak to 22 matches
with the emphatic win
over the reigning Aus-
tralian Open champion,
making it back-to-back
victories over two of her
main rivals. She beat four-
time major winner Maria
Sharapova in straight sets
in an intense semifinal,
her 14th consecutive win
in that frosty duel.
She improved to 14-3
against Azarenka, the last
person to beat her last
year. Before the semifinals,
Williams said there was
nothing like being
"thrown into the deep
end straight away."
Having come through
those challenges, she
thought it was the ideal
"It was a great test. It
showed me where my
level was," Williams said,
looking ahead to the Aus-
tralian Open. "I'm happy
I was able to play both
Maria and Victoria,
because they brought
their A games against me.
I know now what I need
to do for Melbourne --- I
look forward to it."
The year's first major
starts Jan. 13 at Mel-
bourne Park and
Williams, who won 78 of
her 82 matches and col-
lected 11 titles last year,
is positioning herself as
the favorite to claim a
sixth Australian title after
winning a tournament
featuring six of the top
Williams has so many
trophies now, she said she
doesn't know where they
all are --- "some are MIA"
--- but that doesn't stop
her from collecting more.
This was her 58th,
including 17 majors.
Immediately after the
loss, Azarenka said she
hopes to face Williams
again in Melbourne --- as
the top two ranked play-
ers, they can only meet
in the final.
"I can't say I'm satis-
fied today, but I want to
take the positive, what
I've done today, and build
from here towards the
next week," Azarenka
said. "This is the first
week where you really test
yourself where your game
is at, and from here you
can take the positives and
the things that you have
to work on and really go
Williams earned the
first break in the seventh
game and hit fired con-
secutive aces to finish off
the first set in 37 min-
CHENNAI, India---Stanislas Wawrinka and
Edouard Roger-Vasselin registered hard-
fought wins to set up the final of the Chennai
Top-seeded Wawrinka saw a resurgent Vasek
Pospisil of Canada concede their semifinal at
6-4, 5-5 due to a back strain while Frenchman
Roger-Vasselin sweated it out against Spanish
player Marcel Granollers for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
The eighth-ranked Wawrinka was surprised
when fifth-seeded Pospisil withdrew just after
he had struck rhythm following some unforced
errors at crucial junctures.
Wawrinka, the only top-10 player in the
fray, won the first set as he went a break up
in the fifth game when Pospisil made two
errors and double-faulted two times.
The script seemed to be following similar
lines in the second set as the Swiss managed
a break in the seventh game with Pospisil dou-
ble-faulting twice. But Pospisil broke back for
4-4 but lasted only a few more points.
"It was a really tough match and I felt sorry
for him because he was playing very well,"
Wawrinka said. "My focus is to be aggressive.
I'm playing my best tennis since last year and
I think it'll be a good final against Edouard,
who is a good friend."
Wawrinka and Roger-Vasselin are 1-1 from
previous matchups. Wawrinka will be playing
for his fifth ATP title, and second in Chennai
after victory in 2012. Seventh-seeded Roger-
Vasselin seeks his maiden ATP title.
In his semi, Roger-Vasselin made the only
break of the first set in the sixth game and
faced stiff resistance thereafter.
Granollers went a break up in the third game
of the second set and held on, and the decider
was also tight. Granollers broke in the first
game but failed to hold his serve in the fourth
after warding off four break points. Roger-Vas-
selin seized the initiative with some surprise
forays to the net, breaking serve in the sixth
game to go 4-2 up in what was to be a decisive
lead. Roger-Vasselin expressed relief after the
two-hour encounter against his sixth-seeded
Serena Williams of the US celebrates with the
trophy after winning the women's singles final
match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 7-5
during the Brisbane International tennis tournament
in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday. AP PHOTO
Wawrinka, Roger-Vasselin set up Chennai Open final
Spain's Rafael Nadal poses with the trophy after winning the final
against France's Gael Monfils during the ExxonMobil Qatar ATP Open
Tennis tournament at the Khalifa Tennis Squash Complex in Doha,
Qatar, yesterday. (AP PHOTO|)
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