Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal kept on course for a meeting in the opening ATP final of the season as both eased into the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open here on Wednesday.
Federer and Nadal breeze into last eight. Federer, the Grand Slam record-holder from Switzerland, delivered a smooth and graceful performance for the second successive day in beating Grega Zemlja, a qualifier from Slovenia, 6-2, 6-3 in only an hour.
Nadal, the French Open champion from Spain, produced a higher level than during his opening day struggle, overcoming Denis Gremelmayr, a fellow left-hander from Germany, by 6-2, 6-2.
In a contest of well-contested rallies though he needed half an hour longer than Federer.
Nevertheless Nadal did seem to be achieving some of his new year objectives – in particular playing more aggressively, and getting used to a heavier headed racket.
That sounds like particularly bad news for Nadal’s rivals, many of whom consider he hits with more than enough power and spin already. Gremelmayr seven times achieved deuce games with Nadal but was only able to win two of them. Key to winning the important points was Nadal’s exceptional ability to adjust late with his footwork in a continuing troublesome wind.
Federer started and finished like a train.He was soon 3-1 up, and after saving two break back points in the seventh game, began to accelerate again, ripping trademark forehand drives from near the backhand tramlines and winning the last 14 points in a row.
His ability to produce such an elegant performance in the variable breeze was something of a mystery. He was asked how he managed it.
Federer next plays Italian eighth seed Andreas Seppi, the eighth-seeded Italian, who overcame another Spaniard, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 7-5, 6-3.
Nadal plays Mikhail Youzhny, and the seventh seeded Russian may have the ability to make Nadal raise his standard again.
He is also likely to see Nadal arriving with different luggage. The holder of ten Grand Slam titles forgot to bring his normal kitbag, and arrived with an odd little case, pulled along on wheels.
Nadal has only once before made the final here, two years ago, when he was runner-up. To get there again he may have to get through a semi-final with Gael Monfils, the fourth-seeded Frenchman.
However, Monfils had to survive two-and-a-half hours and some twinges in a knee before winning 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 against Benjamin Becker, the former top 40 German.
Monfils’ fitness may be carefully watched as he next takes on Viktor Troicki, the fifth seeded Serbian.