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Monfils through to Qatar Open final as Thiem withdraws, Rublev outlasts Pella


Doha, Jan 6: French tennis player Gael Monfils advanced to the Qatar Open final after Australian top seed Dominic Thiem was forced to withdraw from the semi-final due to fever here.

The Frenchman will play rising star Andrey Rublev in the final after the Russian outlasted the Argentine left-hander Guido Pella 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2) in two hours and 25 minutes.

Thiem, the only seed remaining since the quarter-finals, was set to play his first hard court semi-final in more than a year. The last time he did so was back in Metz in September 2016. Unfortunately, Thiem developed a fever which laid him low and he had to pull out from the semi-final against three-time finalist Monfils. 

Monfils, who had taken a wild card into the tournament, was returning from a four-month injury break himself. 

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Rublev, who idolises Spanish great Rafael Nadal, put himself in the driver's seat taking the first set 6-2 but Pella struck back to win the second 6-4. Rublev hit a ball into the stands in anger and received a warning.

The third set saw a marathon battle where both players had their chances early on. Pella had three break points but failed to capitalise on any. Rublev then had two of his own but some good serves from Pella nullified them. 

Serving down 4-5, Rublev faced a match point but came up with an ace to save it and then held on. Again he was two points from defeat at 5-6 but held on strong. 

In the ensuing tie-break, Rublev made a great start, leading 4-0 with some great tennis including a superb backhand passing shot winner. Pella won two points to come to 2-4 but Rublev was too strong and completed the win to reach the Qatar Open final on his debut.

After the match, Rublev credited his opponent too for the quality of play. 

"I have no words to describe. It was an amazing match for both of us. We played some amazing rallies. Good job to Pella for the way he played. We had a great battle and I think people enjoyed the match. I was focused and trying to fight for every ball," he said.

In the doubles final, which featured some entertaining rallies, second seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic beat top seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-2, 7-6(6) to begin the New Year on a great note. 

They had reached the Wimbledon final in 2017 and hope for a repeat this season.

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