Shaky Federer still on course for Nadal final

World No 1 beats Gulbis in Doha to keep alive prospect of showdown with old rival

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have met only twice since their momentous Wimbledon final of 2008 but the world's best two players are on course to face each other for the 21st time in tomorrow's final of the Qatar Open in Doha.

The Swiss and the Spaniard yesterday reached the semi-finals in their first competitive tournament of the year, though Federer had some uncomfortable moments before beating Ernests Gulbis 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Nadal was leading Steve Darcis 6-1, 2-0 when his Belgian opponent retired hurt.

Nadal has beaten Federer in 13 of their 20 matches, though he lost in their most recent encounter in the final of the Madrid Masters last May. He had won their previous meeting at last year's Australian Open, when he beat the Swiss in a Grand Slam final for the third time in the space of eight months. Nadal was world No 1 at the time, but Federer reclaimed his place at the top of the rankings by going on to win the French Open and Wimbledon.

Gulbis was regarded as one of the game's best young talents two years ago but had a poor 2009, winning two main-draw matches in a row on only two occasions. However, wins this week over Albert Montanes and Andreas Seppi had suggested the 21-year-old might be rediscovering his form.

Federer took the first set in just 33 minutes but started to make frequent unforced errors in the second. Gulbis had break points to lead 4-2 and 5-3 and finally broke when Federer served to stay in the set at 4-5. From 40-15 up, the Swiss made four mistakes in succession to put the world No 90 back in the match.

Even when Federer broke to lead 3-2 in the decider Gulbis was not finished. The big-hitting Latvian broke back immediately, only to drop his serve again at 4-4 after hitting a wild forehand at 30-40. Federer did not waste his second chance, sealing victory with an ace on his second match point.

Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters have played each other even more frequently than Federer and Nadal and kept alive their chances of meeting for the 23rd time in tomorrow's Brisbane International final.

Henin beat Melinda Czink 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 and Clijsters overcame Lucie Safarova 6-1, 0-6, 6-4, though their scratchy quarter-final performances suggested that their passage to an all-Belgian final would by no means be a foregone conclusion. Henin, in particular, was facing a major task in her semi-final today against Ana Ivanovic, while Clijsters was due to play Germany's Andrea Petkovic.

The Belgians last met in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2006, Henin winning in straight sets to take a 12-10 lead in their head-to-head record.

Spain, in the shape of Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, reached the final of the Hopman Cup in Perth thanks to a whitewash victory over the Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur. Their opponents tomorrow will be decided by today's final round-robin matches, in which Britain's Andy Murray and Laura Robson were taking on Russia's Igor Andreev and Elena Dementieva.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone