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Schumacher's birthday vigil

FORMULA 1: Michael Schumacher's 45th birthday was observed by hundreds of Ferrari fans outside the French hospital where the German remains in an artificially-induced coma following a skiing accident at the weekend.

Some 200 people from Ferrari fan clubs based around Europe made the trip to the Grenoble University Hospital, where a silent vigil was held in support of the seven-time Formula One world champion.

Schumacher, who suffered major head injuries in Sunday's accident in the French Alps, enjoys a special place in the hearts of all Ferrari fans, having won the world drivers' title for five successive years between 2000 and 2004 while driving for the Scuderia.

Seventy two of his record 91 grand prix wins also came at the wheel of Ferrari cars and the Italian team have been at the forefront of the efforts to pay tribute to the stricken champion, whose condition was described earlier this week as critical, but stable.

A Ferrari statement read: "This is a special day for Ferrari and all its fans as it is Michael Schumacher's birthday.

"At the moment, he is tackling the most important fight of his life and therefore we want to send him very special wishes."


TENNIS: Rafael Nadal was given a scare as he advanced to the final of the ATP Qatar Open yesterday.

The top-seed dropped the opening set 6-4 to German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk, which opened up the possibility of a huge upset.

But the Spaniard regained his composure and took the next two 6-2 6-3 to move into the final where he will take on Frenchman Gael Monfils.

Gojowczyk broke Nadal for an early 3-0 lead, but the world number one evened things up before his opponent, ranked 161 places below him, took the set.

Two early breaks of serve had Nadal back on the front foot and, after easing to the second set, Gojowczyk's resistance was broken in a match lasting just under two hours.

"The positive thing is I am in the finals the first week of the season without arriving here with big preparation," Nadal said.

"It's true that I finished the match playing better than what I started. That's always a positive thing, because that means that mentally I was prepared to find solutions."

Monfils found it far easier going in the second semi-final. He beat another German, Florian Mayer, 6-3 6-2.