It was nothing short of a miracle. Staring at defeat in the third set, crowd favourite Andy Murray of Great Britain saved five match points to beat rising star Jiri Lehecka for a place in the final of the $1.4mn Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

Today’s final will be Murray’s fifth in Doha after the 35-year-old yesterday won 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 (6) in 2 hours and 29 minutes.

Murray, the Doha champion in 2008 and 2009, will be aiming to complete a hat-trick of Qatar titles today. Roger Federer (2005, 2006, 2011) is the only player with three title wins in Qatar.

Today he will meet third seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia who yesterday beat second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada 6-4, 7-6 (7) in 1 hour and 56 minutes.

Murray has 24 wins in Doha, one more than Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils. He lost two finals – 2007 and 2017 against Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic and current World No.1 Novak Djokovic respectively.

Murray was delighted after his thrilling win over Lehecka, who is just 21 years of age.

“That was one of the most amazing turnarounds I’ve had in my career,” Murray said. “He had the three match points at 5-4. I knew it was his first time maybe serving for a final. So I had to make sure that I tried to keep the pressure on at the end because I know how difficult it is to serve matches like that out. But I have no idea how I managed to turn that one round, to be honest,” he added.

Reaching his fifth final in Doha seemed to have delighted Murray.

“It’s an accomplishment. Yeah,” Murray said. “This tournament over the years has had many great players playing. Federer played a lot, and guys like Roddick, Nadal and Novak’s played here many times. Those guys have obviously achieved a lot more than me. But this is one small win that I maybe can have over them. I’ll enjoy this evening and hopefully put on a good performance tomorrow,” Murray said with a smile.

“I feel all right just now. I mean, obviously the adrenaline’s pumping after a match like that. I’m sure there’ll be a little bit of fatigue, but I’ve got a great team behind me. Phil Hayward, my physio. Fantastic, fantastic man. And yeah, he’s got a job on his hands tonight to put me back together again for tomorrow,” he added.

At third deuce, an unforced error by Lehecka followed by a wide return gave Murray the first break in game one that lasted six minutes. In game two, an exquisite drop shot followed by an overhead lob gave Lehecka a 30-love cushion. A double fault by Murray on his serve made it 40-0 for Lehecka but the British tennis icon reeled off five consecutive points to go 2-0 in 14 minutes.

Murray broke Lehecka for the second time to race to a 3-0 cushion in game three for an ideal start to the match. Leading 30-0 in game four, Murray produced a blistering serve to go 40-0 and seconds later an ace saw him grab a 4-0 lead. An unforced error followed by a wide return from the baseline by Lehecka at deuce gave a Murray 5-0 lead. An unforced error by Lehecka gave Murray the first set in 32 minutes.

An error-prone Lehecka won only 37 percent of his first serves while in contrast Murray stood at 82 percent as the Briton just shut down his young Czech opponent with ease.

At 30-all in game two of the second set and with Murray serving, Lehecka produced a sublime backhand down the line before breaking the Briton for a 2-0 lead. Lehecka found his feet to take a 3-0 lead in the second set. Murray stemmed the flow by reducing the deficit at 3-1 in game four. With better momentum than he had in the first set, Lehecka quickly closed out the second at 6-3.

In the third set, the two players held their serves in the first two games but in the third game Murray was broken by a resolute Lehecka who put pressure on his seasoned rival from the baseline. Murray returned the compliment by breaking Lehecka in game four to draw level at 2-all but Lehecka broke the Briton again in game five. Murray saved three match points as a wayward Lehecka fired three wide returns in game nine. Down three match points, Murray reeled off five consecutive points on Lehecka’s serve in game 10 to draw level at 5-all.

In the ensuing tie-breaker, Murray jumped to a 3-1 lead but then the two battled for points until they reached 5-all. Murray unleashed a backhand that Lehecka smashed into the net to go 6-5 ahead and then fired an ace to arrive at match point.

A long return from Lehecka was game, set and match for Murray who roared in front of his box where mother Judy jumped from her seat to celebrate her son’s fighting win.

Medvedev after winning his semi-final said he feels good playing in Doha.

“Today and yesterday, the matches were super close and yeah, confidence matters because he had two set points. I managed to just stay in there and it was enough to win. It was very high level match for two sets,” Medvedev said.

QTF discussing upgrading QEMO to ATP 500 Series

Tariq Zeinal,
Qatar Tennis Federation secretary-general
Tariq Zeinal, Qatar Tennis Federation secretary-general

Doha: The Qatar Tennis, Squash and Badminton Federation (QTSBF) revealed that it is preparing a plan to upgrade the Qatar ExxonMobil Open Tennis Championship from the ATP 250 series to ATP 500 series.

Qatar Tennis Federation (QTF) secretary-general Tariq Zeinal confirmed in press statement that the General Assembly of QTF, chaired by Nasser bin Ghanim al-Khelaifi, discussed upgrading the championship from the ATP 250 to ATP 500, due to the great importance of the Qatar tournament and its distinction among all the championships of the same category.

Zainal added that the tournament participants, including officials from the Professional Tennis Players Association and players, assured the organising committee that the Qatar event would be chosen as the best tournament in its category for the sixth year in a row.

QTF secretary-general revealed that the General Assembly discussed the issue of merging the Padel under the QTSBF umbrella pointing out that the construction of six Padel courts in the vicinity of the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex has been completed and equipped in preparation for the tournament that will be hosted by the federation after the completion of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open championship.

Zainal explained that the meeting discussed a number of issues to develop tennis, in addition to emphasising the strategy that was put in place to develop the game by organising many local, Asian and international tournaments, and discussing developing Qatari players and providing them with more support through setting up camps and participating in Asian and international tournaments.
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