Doha R1 preview and pick: Nadal vs. Rosol

Rafael Nadal will kick off his 2014 campaign on the final day of 2013 against an opponent whom he has never defeated. Heading into first-round action in Doha, the only previous encounter between Nadal and Lukas Rosol was won by Rosol at Wimbledon in 2012. Hasan Murad previews their second meeting.

Very rarely does a first-round match at a 250-point event featuring the world’s top player against an opponent ranked outside the top 40 induce the type of interest this Qatar ExxonMobil Open contest between Rafael Nadal and Lukas Rosol has already generated.

After almost 18 months, Nadal finally has a chance to avenge his agonizing five-set Wimbledon loss at the hands of Rosol, who–going into that match–was an alien to the tennis world. Ranked exactly No.100 at the time, the Czech sent shockwaves across the tennis world when he abruptly took life out of Nadal’s 2012 bid at the All-England Club in the second round to mark one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.

In 2013, Rosol won his maiden ATP title (on the clay courts of Bucharest) and made prolific contributions to Czech Republic’s Davis Cup victory (most notably winning the longest doubles match in tennis history). Despite decent progress following his upset win over Nadal, Rosol–ranked 47th–is still known solely for his famous exploits on the lawn of London two seasons ago.

In a joint effort with Fransisco Roig, Nadal scored a doubles victory over Rosol and Pablo Anjudar on Monday. That may have slightly satiated his sense of vengeance, but the Spaniard should still take the singles court like nothing less than a wounded tiger. Though Nadal already played two singles matches at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship last week, this match will mark the beginning of his official business for the 2014 season.

In their last and only meeting, Rosol’s penetrative groundstrokes and thunderous serving were key to his victory over a struggling Nadal, who missed the remaineder of that year due to a knee injury. Rosol will have to play undoubtedly the best hard-court match of his life to even stand a realistic chance of beating the man who compiled a staggering 29-2 record on outdoor hard courts last year.

Eager to maintain his momentum from 2013, Nadal should not allow this to be anything other than a routine win in straight sets.

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