Doha: World number one Rafael Nadal will appear in the final of the Qatar Open for the second time after beating surprise package Peter Gojowczyk in the semi-final on Friday.
Nadal`s 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory confirmed him as the overwhelming favourite to take the title and do something he has never done before, win a tournament in the opening week of the year.
"I never win a title in the first week of the season, and tomorrow I have another opportunity," Nadal said.
"A lot of times I have tried here so it will mean a lot to me to succeed finally. Hopefully tomorrow (Saturday) I will play good and will play my best match here. I know I will try."
Nadal was rarely near his peak and started poorly, losing the first nine points of the match to the German qualifier.
He moved sluggishly and made 17 unforced errors with his famous forehand drive in the first set alone.
Gojowczyk, who had only previously played four matches on the ATP World Tour and admits to having sought Nadal`s autograph at last year`s US Open, was patient, methodical, and careful.
He was also capable of sudden dramatic changes of pace with which he could hit strident ground stoke winners.
"At the beginning my opponent was comfortable with every shot - even if he did play great," said Nadal.
"If my opponent is playing too comfortable it is because I am doing something bad. And then I have to analyse myself.
"The positive thing is I am arriving in the final without big preparation," he added, referring to the fact that new treatment on his troublesome knees has apparently restricted his off-season training to little more than a week.
Nadal hit back to win 13 points out of 17 and take a 4-0 second-set lead.
He always seemed the likely winner thereafter but knows he needs to do better to stand a chance of winning the final.
"I need to play much better to have a chance tomorrow," he said. "If I don`t improve my level of tennis, my level of rhythm, and play more inside (the baseline) my chances of winning will not be big.
"So I am focussed on doing it. it is a chance of winning for the first time, and winning a title with good prestige."
Nadal was due to play the winner of the second semi-final between Florian Mayer, the world number 40 who earlier defeated Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, and Gael Monfils, a former finalist in Doha.