World number one Novak Djokovic and Spaniard Rafael Nadal breezed through to the Qatar Open quarter-finals on Wednesday, raising hopes the pair will appear in a dream Doha final later this week.
Number one seed Djokovic lost just four games in a comprehensive defeat of Spain’s Fernando Verdasco with the Serb triumphing 6-2, 6-2, in one hour and nine minutes.
He was matched straight after on Centre Court by Nadal, the tournament’s number two seed, who swept aside Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and five minutes.
Djokovic’s victory matched the result of his first-round clash against Dustin Brown and means the Serb has spent just two hours on court in the first two rounds. Ominously for his rivals, Djokovic looked already to be getting back to his dominant form of 2015 where he won three of the season’s four majors.
“Very pleased with the way I have started this season, two matches, straight sets,” he told reporters afterwards.
“Of course there are things that I think I can still do better, but again I have to be satisfied with how I played the first two matches.”
In the warmest temperatures experienced in Doha this week — 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) — Djokovic controlled the match from the very beginning.
He first broke Verdasco’s serve in the fourth game and was rarely troubled after that. The Serb squandered another break point just two games later, but eventually closed out the set on Verdasco’s serve to go one up in just 31 minutes.
Verdasco, the world number 49 who had beaten Djokovic four times in their 11 previous meetings, offered some resistance in the second set but only enough to delay the inevitable. The Spaniard, who may have been feeling the effects of his first-round victory less than 24 hours before, missed two break opportunities in the second set and was made to pay.
The Serb will play the number eight seed, Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer, in the last-eight.
It was in the third round last year that Djokovic crashed out of the Qatar Open, losing to Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic.
Nadal was just as impressive in his victory over Haase. He broke the Dutchman early on and never looked back.
“(I am) just very happy to be through, I think I played a very strong match,” said the Spaniard. “I think I returned so well tonight. And the serve was a little bit worse than yesterday, but in general, I played much better than yesterday, no?
“So very happy with the victory and with the level of tennis.”
Nadal had struggled in the first round on Tuesday, finally coming through after dropping the first set against compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta. He plays Andrey Kuznetsov in the last eight.
Number three seed Tomas Berdych is also through to the quarter-finals after the Czech beat Bosnia’s Damir Dzhumar 6-0, 6-4 in a one-sided match. He next plays British qualifier Kyle Edmund, who won a third set tie-breaker against Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Earlier, Jeremy Chardy won an all-French clash, beating Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-4.
Chardy will play the surprise player of the tournament, Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko, who followed up his impressive first-round defeat of defending champion David Ferrer with victory on Tuesday over Teymuraz Gabashvili, 6-4, 6-2.