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Federer faces Davydenko in opener

RAAJIV TRIPATHI DOHA NIKOLAY Davydenko has a golden chance to arrest his slump in form and ring in the new season on a positive note as the 20th Anniversary edition of the $102,4000 Qatar ExxonMobil Open gets underway on Monday.

The former world No 3 Davydenko will clash with Swiss maestro and holder Roger Federer, the second seed who has won in Doha three times, in a firstround match at the same Khalifa International Tennis and squash Complex courts where he has played some his best tennis in the past two years.

During the 2010 event, the Russian star had beaten Federer in the semi-finals and then tame Rafael Nadal to win in the seasonopening.

He followed up his superb show with another good run last year only to lose to Federer in the final.

In both the past years, when he was expected to extend his rich form but could not do so and now he begins the New Year as a world No 41 ranked player.

Even before the draw he said, “Since I am not ranked high at the moment, I can get maybe Nadal or Federer in the first round.” Though he avoided top seed Nadal, , he was the last player to be picked in the draw, which meant he was bracketed with second seed Federer, who is on a roll, after ending the past season with titles in a row.

But Doha appears to be somewhat kind to Davydenko in the last two seasons and he is capable of doing any wonders. “Personally, I would have liked to play Federer in the end, but anything is possible,” he added.

Davydenko also lauded the organisers for bringing together a tough field every year. But he was quick to add that the Doha event’s good performance could not guarantee you a strong display in the first grand slam – the Australian Open.

“They are two different tournaments and if you play well in Doha, it doesn’t mean that you will do well in Melbourne also. But yes, it feels good when you start the new season well,” said the unassuming Russian.

Top seed Nadal, who is said to be treating a sore shoulder, has drawn German Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first match. The German has never won any of the match in previous seven meetings, but he Nadal doesn’t recover well, he may trouble him.

Though Nadal has not got the going well for him in the singles in Doha, he has been thrice champion in the doubles, twice with Marc Lopez. The Spaniard is also said to be working on recovering the spark that he missed in the 2011. As a result, he could claim only three titles, including the French Open, but lost seven finals - six of them only to Serbian Novak Djokovic.

So it would be interesting to watch him in the singles this time as he is facing the German for the first time after a gap of more than a year.

Nadal’s other major challenger is fourth seed French Gael Monfils, the 2006 runner-up to Federer.

Nadal has an impressive 8-1 winloss record against the French and in the past two years, he has not lost to him.

Both Nadal and Monfils are likely to clash in the semi-finals only if Nadal could overcome seventh seed Mikhail Youzhny and Monfils could beat fifth seed Serbian Viktor Troicki.

The Serbian Troicki said the field is quite strong in Doha and he can’t afford to be complacent. “A tough field is available in the draw and I can’t relax in any match. I’ve got to play my best tennis and then I’ll see how far I can go.”

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