Here we go again, and it’s just the first week of the tennis season! Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will go at it Saturday in the Doha final.
The title itself, well, it doesn’t mean that much, though Rafa hasn’t won a hardcourt event since 2014 Doha. But the matchup between two of the best is what matters.
Novak’s been the far superior player the last 18 months and he’ll want to keep it that way, while Nadal is slowly working his way back into form.
Head-to-head, it’s knotted at 23 apiece. But Novak’s finally going to take the lead here. Since losing to Nadal in the 2014 French Open final, he’s pulverised the Spaniard winning the last four all in straight sets. And Nadal hasn’t even gotten to four games in the last six sets he’s played against Novak! That’s damn good.
That said, I think Rafa puts up a good performance tomorrow. Better than the 6-2, 6-2 drubbing in Beijing or the 6-3, 6-3 loss in the London semifinals. The trend is losing but improving for Rafa, so a 6-4, 6-4 sounds about right.
I just hope it’s competitive. And maybe Rafa can summon the old and pull out a win? It’s hard to see it right now, but despite his recent dip he’s still a champion.
“It always represents a great challenge to play Nadal because of the fact that we have played so many times for the trophies,” said Djokovic.
And if the courts are quick and conditions fast, maybe that can help Nadal power through the Djokovic defense. The key for me when they play is the Nadal second serve and Djokovic backhand. And also, remember Djokovic has never won the Doha title, Rafa has. So maybe that plays a role.
But Djokovic has been just so dominant. It’s his 16th straight final since that Ivo Karlovic loss in Doha a year ago. And even when Nadal is at his very best, he struggles with Novak. So, as I said, I hope Rafa can stay in this one.
Earlier in the semifinals, Djokovic man-handled Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-6(3). Nadal steamrolled Ilya Marchenko 6-3, 6-4. So both guys are in decent form, though Rafa’s had a great draw in the desert.
Match time tomorrow is 10am ET. I believe Tennis Channel will have live coverage in the U.S. What a way to kick off the New Year!
SATURDAY DOHA SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT start 6:00 pm
 N. Djokovic (SRB) vs  R. Nadal (ESP)
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