Taking down the world number five Rafael Nadal proved to be a step too far for Illya Marchenko. Ranked at 94 in the world and having one of the best weeks of his career, the Ukrainian was too inconsistent as he lost 6-3, 6-4 in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open semifinal clash.
Nadal Races Out Of The Blocks
This was the first meeting between the two players and the Spaniard used that to his advantage, capitalizing on Marchenko’s nervous and erratic opening to take a 3-0 lead. The start will have delighted Nadal and his fans as in recent years, he has become accustomed to lower ranked opponents playing above themselves, not fearing the challenge of playing the 14-time Grand Slam Champion.
The Ukrainian was competing in just his third ATP World Tour semifinal, a run which began with the terrific comeback against the fourth seed David Ferrer, a match which he won 6-7(8) 6-3 6-2. The straight sets victories which followed over Teymuraz Gabashvili and Jeremy Chardy left him brimming with confidence. We began to see the 28-year-old’s flashes of brilliance in his next service game, which he held to settle his nerves.
The Ukrainian Hangs In There
Having failed to make any inroads into Nadal’s service games, Marchenko found himself under pressure once more, producing an untimely double fault to trail 30-40 on serve. A net cord which came back on the former champion’s side let the Ukrainian off of the hook temporarily, but a roaring backhand down the line brought up another break point for Nadal. A put away volley at the net and a couple of missed returns secured an unlikely hold and a lifeline in the set.
First Set To Nadal
Consecutive holds from the two players left the former world number one serving for the opening set. Despite dropping the opening point, Nadal laid down heavy serving markers, securing the set by six games to three in just 34 minutes, all without dropping a point behind his first serve.
Second Set: Marchenko Shows His Mentality
After making little impact in the opening set, the world number 94 will have been eager to make a stronger start in the second, with the added boost of serving first. The opening points could have not gone worse for the server as loose errors saw him trail 15-40. Deep hitting and a half-volley put away from the right-hander helped to rescue the game and secure a vital hold of serve.
The Spaniard Takes Control
Nadal continued to remain untested on serve as he levelled the set at two games all, before he made a definitive move on his opponents serve. Marchenko’s game fell apart drastically as the errors poured from his racket, dropping serve to love.
The way Nadal had been serving, a comeback seemed unlikely, but poor shot selection allowed Marchenko to craft a break back chance at 30-40. That proved to be his final chance as the second seed shut the door through holding serve.
Marchenko forced Nadal to serve for the match, but a sixth ace and a couple of unreturnable serves put the result beyond doubt, securing a convincing straight sets victory 6-3, 6-4. He can now look forward to the challenge of facing either Tomas Berdych or Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s final.