|Federer appeared visibly more determined as he entered the business end of the tournament [AFP]
Roger Federer advanced to the semi-final of the Qatar Open 2011 after beating Viktor Troicki, 28 seeded from Serbia, 6-2 6-2.
As he entered the business end of the tournament, the world number two appeared visibly more determined and gave his most accomplished display of the week so far.
Federer found his service range immediately during a straightforward opening game to lead 1-0. The second game was symptomatic of the match, in that Troicki faced a real struggle to hold onto his serve, eventually levelling the match after saving three break points.
The fourth game of the set saw the first break of serve. Troicki continued to either fail to land his first serve, or his serves were easily dealt with and returned with interest by the Swiss. Federer earned two break points in this game, the second of which he converted with a powerful forehand drive to lead 3-1.
The following games then went with serve until the eighth game, which saw Federer achieve the second break of the match. Troicki contributed to his downfall, with two double faults, the second of which handed the set to Federer 6-2.
The second set started in the same vein as the previous one had finished with Federer not troubled in the least on his service game and soon racing into a 1-0 lead.
Games then went with serve, but not without alarm for Troicki who had to fight hard to save two break points in the second game, and another two in the fourth game. At 3-2 to Federer, Troicki's serve again came under pressure. He saved two break points but it was third time lucky for the world number two as he made it 4-2 with a fierce forehand.
Federer by now had the winning post in sight and was in a clearly dominant mood. He won all remaining games, ending the match fittingly with an overhead smash to match the first set scoreline of 6-2. A telling statistic of the match was that Federer faced no break points on his serve.
After winning the match, a satisfied Federer proclaimed, "I played really well today, I'm very happy." He also acknowledged the large Swiss contingent in the crowd cheering him on. "It is nice to see them here, there are only six or seven million of us in the world."
Nadal vs Gulbis
The next quarter-final saw a far closer match between world number one Rafael Nadal, and Ernests Gulbis, ranked 24 from Latvia.
Like Federer, Nadal quickly found his serving rhythm and took the opening game. In the second game he earned two break points on the Gulbis serve, but the Latvian managed to save the first with a powerful serve and on the second Nadal hit an attempted passing shot wide, enabling Gulbis to level the match
Not to be outdone, the muscular Spaniard broke his opponent's serve in the fourth game when he converted a breakpoint with a beautiful passing forehand to lead 3-1.
However to the surprise of the Centre Court crowd, the tables were turned in Game 7 and it was Nadal's serve that was broken. Two unforced groundstroke errors and a double fault gave the Latvian three break points, the second of which he converted with a fine two-handed passing shot to cut Nadal's lead in the set to 4-3.
Game 9 saw Nadal again concede a 0-40 lead to face three breakpoints. However, the top seed showed his mettle with a string of big serves and passing shots to win the game.
The next three games went with serve taking the set into a tie break.
The key moment of the tie break came on the third point when Gulbis contrived to mistime a drop shot which sailed weakly into the net. This gave Nadal a mini break to lead 2-1. The remaining points went when with serve, until at 6-3 facing 3 set points Gulbis netted a return to give Nadal the set.
Both players held their serve for the first four games of the second set.
In game five, Gulbis once again netted an attempted drop shot, giving two break points to Nadal. The Spaniard converted the second one through another unforced error by Gulbis to make the set 3-2 in his favour.
Nadal now looked increasingly determined to finish the match against an opponent who despite all his endeavours did not quite have enough in his armoury to upset the top seed.
The next three games went with the serve. At 5-3 and serving for the match, Nadal made no mistake and finished off his opponent with an emphatic overhead drive.
After the match, Nadal acknowledged that he had been put through his paces by his opponent. "Every match is really tough," he said. "Gulbis is one of the best players in the world and he has a great opportunity to go up and be in the top 10. He is very dangerous.''