Ljubicic, Davydenko, Murray Reach Doha Semifinals

Posted on January 4, 2008

Defending champion Ivan Ljubicic aims to reach his fourth final at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open as he takes on Stanislas Wawrinka on Friday while top seed Nikolay Davydenko looks to reach the Doha final for the first time as he takes on No. 3 seed and 2007 finalist Andy Murray. This is the second straight year that three of the four semifinalists are returning (excluding Wawrinka).

Fourth seed Ivan Ljubicic challenges Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the first of the semifinals on Friday. The Croat has a perfect 3-0 lifetime over Wawrinka, including a hard court victory in the Doha first round three years ago. The 28-year-old defending champion has enjoyed much success on his previous three visits to Doha, reaching the final on each occasion, losing to Escude in 2004 and Federer in 2005, before defeating Andy Murray in straight sets last year to lift the trophy, achieving a 15-2 tournament record. The Croat has reached his fourth semifinal in Doha with victory over Koubek, a walkover against Tipsarevic and a hard fought win over No. 6 seed Kohlschreiber. Ljubicic has begun each of the past four seasons well, reaching an ATP final each time, including winning the title in Chennai in 2006 (d. Moya). Two ATP titles in 2007 saw Ljubicic finish in the Top 20 (No. 18) of the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the third consecutive season. World No. 36 Wawrinka is competing in Doha for the fourth time and is enjoying his best run here having lost at the first hurdle on his previous three attempts. Wins over Alberto Martin, Christophe Rochus and Calleri have taken his tournament record to 3-3. The 22-year-old is enjoying his best start to an ATP season having finished 2007 in the Top 50 for the second straight year thanks to appearances in two ATP finals, despite missing three months due to a knee injury. He has a 7-6 lifetime against Croatian opponents.

In a repeat of the 2007 semifinal, top seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko takes on No. 3 seed Andy Murray whom he has lost to in their two most recent encounters. The 26-year-old Davydenko had a hugely consistent 2007, recording a 53-31 season but only being rewarded with one title in ATP Moscow (d. Mathieu). The Russian finished the season inside the Top Five (No. 4) of the South African Airways ATP rankings for the third straight year. He has enjoyed success in recent years in Doha with a 12-5 record, reaching the quarterfinals or better in the past four years, but is yet to go further than the semifinals (l. to Federer in 2005; l. to Murray in 2007). He has arrived at Friday’s semifinal encounter as a result of wins against Dorsch, Santoro and Tursunov.

Despite missing over three months due to a wrist injury in 2007, the 20-year-old Murray had his best season to date, breaking into the Top 10 for the first time and spending nine weeks there. Two ATP titles in San Jose (d. Karlovic) and St. Petersburg (d. Verdasco) helped him to finish the year ranked No. 11 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. On his debut in Doha last year, Murray finished runner-up (d. Davydenko; l. to Ljubicic) and now has a 7-1 tournament record. He has reached the 2008 semifinal with victories over Olivier Rochus, Schuettler and Thomas Johansson, scoring a 6-0 set against each of his opponents. The Scot has a 9-12 record against Top 10 players, losing his past three encounters against Djokovic, Robredo and Nadal.

The doubles final is an all-unseeded encounter as South Africans Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie challenge Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber and Czech David Skoch. Coetzee and Moodie have a 6-3 team record with their best result the semifinals in Los Angeles last year (l. to Bryan/Bryan) Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber and Czech David Skoch. Making their partnership debut, Kohlschreiber and Skoch ousted No. 2 seeds Martin Damm and Pavel Vizner in the quarterfinals before defeating Cas/Wassen in Thursday’s semifinal. (ATP Digital Services)