© Getty Images

Novak Djokovic improves to 9-4 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Fernando Verdasco.

Djokovic Saves Five Match Points In Doha

Serbian will face Murray in Saturday's final

Novak Djokovic survived a serious scare from Fernando Verdasco at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Friday, fighting off five match points to rally past the Spaniard 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3 and reach his first ATP World Tour final of 2017.

The Serbian was down 2/6 in the second-set tie-break but erased the four match points – and another at 6/7 – to even the match. Verdasco held to open the third set but Djokovic broke two times in the decider.

“It was quite a thrilling experience for me to be able to go five match points down... I'm obviously very pleased because you need these kind of matches, these kind of confidence boosters, for whatever is coming up after that,” Djokovic said. “He had three out of five match points with his serve, and three, four of the five match points he had a forehand to finish it off and he didn't. It's not because I've done something right. It's just that it happened that way. Only thing I could do is fight and get myself in a position to win the match. That's what I've done.”

In Saturday's final, the second seed will face World No. 1 Andy Murray, who beat Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-4 in Friday's other semi-final.

Playing already in the finals of the first event definitely serves as a great confidence incentive. Obviously this is exactly what I hoped that I can achieve, to get to the finals,” Djokovic said. “I'm hoping I can play on a high level and we can compete as we always did against each other. We always have very physical battles, long rallies, entertaining matches. Between No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, it's a perfect match-up for the final. Let's see what happens.” 

Djokovic's semi-final match started much simpler. He led 4-2 in the first set before Verdasco turned his fortunes around by winning the next six games, including three consecutive breaks against the former World No. 1. The Spaniard was pinning Djokovic deep into the corners by angling his two-handed backhand and running around his potent forehand.

At 2-0 in the second set, Verdasco led by a set and a break and it looked as if it were 2010 again – the last time Verdasco had beaten Djokovic (Rome) during their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

“Fernando started playing quite freely from back of the court, serving high percentage of first serves, and using the first ball after the serve very well,” Djokovic said. 

But the Serbian held and later broke to get back on serve at 4-all in the second set. Djokovic then fought off three break points – and elicited the crowd's support after erasing the second one – to keep Verdasco from serving for the set.

The comeback win marks the third time Djokovic has erased five match points in his career. He also did it against Murray in 2012 and against Florent Serra in 2009.

Verdasco said he was obviously disappointed with the match but saw reasons to be optimistic as well. “Of course right now I'm sad. You don't want to lose like that against anyone, no matter the number of his ranking and no matter his name... When you have five match points, it's hard to lose after how well I played and how close I was. So that's pretty normal,” he said. “I'm also happy about the way I played, how I started the year, and hopefully it's going to help me make 2017 a good year in my career.”

More stories like this in: