Ferrer avoids falling into hole at Qatar Open

Top-seeded David Ferrer started the new season with a dropped first set here Tuesday to Dustin Brown, a qualifier outside the world's top 150, and a damaged court which opened like a crater on the moon.

Repairs appeared to involve tape and glue on a tear about five feet behind the baseline where Ferrer's heel had ripped into the surface.

There was also an anxious-looking conference and a ball-boys' impromptu Gangnam-style dance session on the playing area during a delay which lasted more than an hour.

It was eventually two and a half hours before the world number five from Spain survived his first round in the Qatar Open by 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 against Brown who is a tall, Jamaica-based German nicknamed "Dreddy," with impressive locks flying down to the small of his back.

"None of it was easy," said Ferrer, which was an understatement. Brown was unusual for his aggressive serving, eager forward movement, and willingness to volley, and other circumstances must have seemed to Ferrer bizarrely familiar.

Two years ago he and Andy Roddock were forced off their court at the US Open by a crack near the baseline which let the water through, and required them to change courts, and last year at New York a tornado forced Ferrer and Novak Djokovic to interrupt their semi-final by an entire day.

Roddick tweeted a solution for Doha, suggesting they should "move Ferrer to court 13" - the court number where the American completed his 2011 US Open win over the Spaniard. Ferrer chortled his laughter when he heard, but declined further exchanges with Roddick.

This time Ferrer had a more fortunate resumption. Though a set down he broke Brown's serve at once, and consolidated that advantage right through the second set.

He then making another crucial break at the start of the third set, by which time the favourite was accelerating towards safety.

The seedings say that Ferrer should play a final on Saturday with Richard Gasquet, the world number ten from France, whose fluency appeared only intermittently during a 6-3, 6-4 over Jan Hernych, a 33-year-old Czech qualifier.

Hernych struck his ground strokes more often inside the baseline than Gasquet - often a sign of potential dominance - but missed with three of his four break point chances.

Gasquet's confidence improved markedly after breaking serve at the start of the second set and never looked like being pegged back, dropping only five points in his next five service games.

"That's the way I still prefer to play," said Gasquet of his hinterland ground-stroking.

"Sometimes I know when I'm playing good, I'm going more to the net. That's what I'm doing every day in practice, and for sure I need to do it in a match. I need to improve on that stage, for sure."

He could have a semi-final with his compatriot Gael Monfils, last year's runner-up, whose first match in two and a half months was a comfortable re-introduction, a 6-0, 6-3 win over the local wild card player, Mousa Shanan Zayed.

However, Monfils' next encounter is a potentially tough one, against Philipp Kohlschreiber, the third-seeded German.

He may also be mindful of the fate of another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, the fifth seed but a 6-4, 6-4 loser to a German qualifier, Daniel Brands.

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