Top seed Rafael Nadal displayed some vintage form to outclass Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-4 in the Qatar Open quarter-finals on Thursday evening in front of his good friend Raul Gonzalez and the entire Schalke squad.
The Spaniard appeared to have found his magic hitting winners upon request and moving Youzhny all over the court to book his semi-final spot.
The first set went on serve up until 2-2 before Nadal started pulling Youzhny into the net with some short balls to execute the perfect passing shot – a strategy which saw the Mallorcan break to love to go up 3-2.
One break was all he needed as he continued to fire blistering forehands and backhands, and he clinched the set with a smooth backhand volley at the net.
The second set saw a strong start from Youzhny, who held serve before getting a look at a break point in Nadal’s opening service game. But some strong serves from the world No2 together with some clever shot selection held off the Russian opposition.
After holding serve, it was Nadal’s turn to up the ante and a ruthless backhand passing shot helped him earn a break of serve to go up 2-1 before another break saw him lead 4-1.
Youzhny however did not give up that easily as he broke back once but Nadal eventually flew with the victory after a marathon final game.
Nadal said: "I'm very happy. I think I played my best match here today. Doing a lot of things very, very well.
"I returned the first set very well. I went inside the court. For moments I enjoyed a lot playing tennis tonight. That's true, I had a mistake with 4 1 to close the match, 5 1 it's finished, but after that I suffered a lot with 5 4, 15 40, but that's, you know, just a small thing, no? If we talk global of the match, I think I played very, very well. Very happy.
"I know he's very dangerous player. He's one of these players that when you walk on court that you know you can lose the match. I think he did a good match. I believe he didn't have a lot of mistakes. His movements was good.
"But seriously, it's one of the days I go back to the hotel very, very happy about what I did. For a lot of moments during the match, I played at very, very high level, moving very well, going inside the court, having the control of the point most of the times against a player that I normally don't have the control of the point, because his level always put me in trouble in the past."
Earlier on Centre Court, defending champion Roger Federer survived a scare in his quarter-final against Italian Andreas Seppi falling behind 1-5 in the second set, before getting things in order in the decider.
The Swiss took the first set 6-3, in convincing fashion serving at 79 per cent first serves and breaking his opponent twice, but the tables were quickly turned and Seppi raced to a 5-1 lead in the second set, benefitting from a stream of unforced errors from Federer.
Still Federer would not let go of the set so easily as he stepped things up, attacking more with his backhand to level the set at 5-5. But Seppi still managed to snatch the set breaking Federer again to make it one set apiece.
The second seed regained his composure in the deciding set and one break was all he needed to seal the win 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in one hour 38 minutes.
“I thought I started well. I was able to play aggressive, not giving too much rhythm,” said Federer after his win.
“He was obviously missing more shots due to that. In the second set I think he found his range a bit more. I missed a couple of chances, but he was just better overall.
“I then started playing a bit better to come back into the match, but then he closed it out nice, serving well at 5 All and breaking well at 6 5. I thought he was a better player in that second set and deserved that set, and then the third set was close. I had my chances; he had his chances. But I was able to take mine, but at the end that was the small difference today.
“I guess my variation and my power just was maybe a bit too much at the end.”