Barcelona Open: Nishikori and Giraldo into the final - UBITENNIS
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Barcelona Open: Nishikori and Giraldo into the final

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TENNIS – Kei Nishikori beat Ernests Gulbis in the first semifinal of the Barcelona Open, ATP 500 Tournament, with 6-2 6-4 in one hour and 26 minutes setting up a final match against Colombian Santiago Giraldo who upset Rafa Nadal’s conqueror Nicolas Almagro, also in straight sets, with 7-5 6-3. Diego Sampaolo

Four players from four different countries qualified for the semifinals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell: Kei Nishikori from Japan, Ernests Gulbis from Latvia, Nicholas Almagro from Spain and Santiago Giraldo from Colombia. Spain has been represented by only one player for the first time since 2002.

In the first semifinal Nishikori defeated Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-4 in their first ever head-to-head match. The Florida-based player did not face a break point chance in the whole match to reach the seventh final in his career (with a record of 4-2 in his previous finals). Gulbis saved seven break points in the second set before dropping her serve.

Nishikori broke serve in the fifth game of the opening set with a forehand winner down the line and backed up the break at 30 for a 4-2 lead after 21 minutes. The Japanese player won 14 of the last 16 points to wrap up the first set in 27 minutes.

Gulbis fended off two of the three break points he faced with a service winner and a ace to hold serve for2-1. In the fifth game Nishikori earned three break points but Gulbis saved them. The next game featured a spectacular 22-shot rally. Gulbis hit a backhand drop-shot into the net to face a fourth break point. The Latvian saved it with an ace before holding serve with another ace for 3-2 before taking a medical time-out to treat a lower back strain. Nishikori broke serve for the third time for 5-4 as Gulbis made a forehand error.

Nishikori made a couple of double faults at deuce in the final game but he closed out the match on the third match point after one hour and 25 minutes.

The Japanese player reached the semifinal for the fourth time this season and his first final in four appearances in Barcelona. Before this week he achieved his best result in 2012 when he lost to Fernando Verdasco in the quarter final.

Nishikori has made history as he has become the first Japanese player to reach the Barcelona final He will be looking to win the second title this year and the fifth in his career.

I was very happy to see lots of Japanese people congratulating me after the match. I love coming to play in Spain. I am playing great and I am particularly pleased with my serve and my forehand”, said Nishikori.

Tomorrow he will be looking to win the second title of the year two months after winning in Memphis when he beat Ivo Karlovic to lift the fourth title of his career. He notably beat Roger Federer in the quarter final in Miami before being forced to withdraw by a groin injury.

The last eleven Barcelona titles have been won by a Spanish player but tomorrow the final will not feature any home players for the first time since 2003 as last year’s Barcelona runner-up Nicholas Almagro was upset by Santiago Giraldo one day after his upset win over eight-time Barcelona champion Rafa Nadal in the re-match of the 2013 final.

Giraldo has become the first player from Colombia to reach the Barcelona final. Giraldo beat Almagro in straight sets 7-5 6-3. Giraldo fended off six of seven break points he faced before closing out the match with an ace,

In the first set Giraldo broke Almagro’s last serving game with a forehand winner. Almagro bounced back breaking early in the second set but Giraldo broke straight back before taking full control of the match.

The Colombian player won for the first time in his six head-to-head matches against Almagro.

Giraldo dropped serve in the third game of the second set but he broke straight back before winning five of the next six games to score his first win in six head-to-head matches against Almagro.

Giraldo hit six aces and 19 winners to score his second win against a top-20 player after beating Fabio Fognini, who withdrew in the second set when he was down 0-6 0-4.

Giraldo has qualified for his second career final after losing to Tommy Robredo in Santiago in 2011. He played in his sixth ATP semifinal after Santiago 2011, Auckland 2011, Acapulco 2012, Vina del Mar 2014 and Houston 2014. In Barcelona Giraldo fended off five match points en route to his three-set win against young Austrian Dominic Thiem with 4-6 6-4 7-5. He qualified for the semifinal after German Phillip Kohlschreiber withdrew because of a leg injury while she was down 4-6 3-4.

In his previous two appearances in the Catalan tournament Giraldo reached the third round losing against Rafa Nadal in 2011 and Andy Murray in 2012. This year he won his 100th match on the ATP Tour in Vina del Mar where he reached the semifinal losing to Leandro Mayer. In April he reached the Houston semifinal where he lost against eventual winner Fernando Verdasco, who beat Almagro in the final.

Nishikori and Giraldo met five times in their career. The Japanese player leads 4-1 and won their last head-to-head match in Indian Wells last March with 6-1 6-3.

The last non-Spanish winner in Barcelona was Gaston Gaudio in 2002. The last non Spanish final in Barcelona dates back to 1996 when Thomas Muster beat Marcelo Rios in four sets.

Bucharest Nastase Tiriac Trophy ATP 250

Grigor Dimitrov qualified for the final of the ATP 250 Tournament in Bucharest when Gael Monfils was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury after 26 minutes when he was trailing 1-5 in the first set. The Frenchman rallied from 0-5 and 2.6 in the tie-break of the second set and saved six match points to beat his compatriot Pierre Henry Mathieu 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 after a two-hour and 21 minute battle.

The Bulgarian player will face last year’s Bucharest champion Lukas Rosol who fought back from a set down and a 0-2 deficit at the start of the second set to overcome Robin Haase with 3-6 6-3 6-2 in one hour and 47 minutes.

It is disappointing for Gael. As much as I am happy, it is an undeserved win and unfortunately it had to end this way. I hope he will be OK for the coming weeks”, said Dimitrov.

Dimitrov will face Rosol for the first time in his career.

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Richard Gasquet reaches his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Miami 2013

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Frenchman Richard Gasquet edged past this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 12 minutes to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal since the 2013 Miami Open.

 

 Gasquet missed six months of action after undergoing groin surgery last January.

The French player set up a semfinal against David Goffin, who reached the semifinal after his Japanese opponent Yoshihito Nishioka withdrew from the match due to illness.

The first set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Bautista Agut hit a backhand wide at 1-2. Gasquet sealed the tie-break when Bautista Agut hit a forehand long.

Bautista Agut earned two breaks of serve in the second set and sealed it, when Gasquet made his third double fault on set point.

Gasquet broke serve with a volley in the third game of the decisive set. The French player went up a double break to race out to 4-1 lead. He saved two break points to hold his serve at deuce before serving out the third set on his first match point.

“I know how tough it was to come back. I know the moments I had at the start of the year, so I just wanted to enjoy, to fight. It is not easy to come back after six months out, but I am here. I am in semis tomorrow”,said Gasquet.

 

 

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Danil Medvedev cruises past Jan-Lennard Struff to set up an all Russian quarter final against Andrey Rublev

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Ninth seed Danil Medvedev cruised past Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 6-1 in 66 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

 

Medvedev committed just 12 unforced errors and won 18 of Struff’s 25 second serve points.

 Medvedev broke twice in the second and eighth games to win the first set 6-2. The young Russian player got two consecutive breaks in the second and fourth games to race out to a 4-0 lead and held his service game at deuce after saving a break point in the fifth game. Struff held his serve to get his first game on the scoreboard, but Medvedev sealed the win on his first match point. The Russian player has improved his head-to-head record to 3-0 againt Struff.

Medvedev has won 11 of his past 13 matches during the North American hard-court season. He has a solid 41-16 record this season. He finished runner in two consecutive finals to Nick Kyrgios at Washington and to Rafael Nadal in Montreal.  In the quarter final the Russian star will face his compatriot Andrey Rublev, who upset Roger Federer 6-3 6-4.

Recent Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut cruised past Miomir Kecmanovic 6-1 6-2 in just under an hour setting up a quarter final against Richard Gasquet, who beat Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (8-6) 6-3.

Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka beat Australian player Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-4 in 83 minutes with one break in each set. Nishioka rallied from 4-6 down in the tie-break of the first set to edge Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 in 1 hour and 37 minutes.

“It was a great match and I got better as it went on. I am feeling sharp. I am feeling great now and I am looking forward to the quarter finals of a Masters 1000. I have nothing to lose”, said Goffin.

 

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Roger Federer Crashes Out Of Cincinnati Masters

The seven-time champion has suffered a blow to his preparations for the US Open.

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World No.3 Roger Federer has been knocked out of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati after falling in straight sets to Russia’s Andrey Rublev.

 

The 20-time grand slam champion struggled to find his range as he was overwhelmed by his fearless opponent during the 6-3, 6-4, loss. Despite the huge disparity in experience between the two, 21-year-old Rublev managed to dominate the majority of rallies with the help of some heavy hitting. Producing 17 winners to six unforced errors, compared to Federer’s tally of 19 and 20.

“I respect him a lot, I respect all the top players a lot, but today when I was going to court I was going there to win.” Rublev said during an interview with Amazon Prime.
“I was not going (to the match) to enjoy. I was going to fight, try to win and do my best.”

Rublev’s shock win saw the underdog outdo the Swiss maestro in almost every area of the match. Winning the most first serves (85% to 63%), second serves (57% to 63) and a bigger majority of points at the net (5/6 to 7/19). Breaking him twice in the opening set and once in the second. The Russian, who is 70th in the world, is the lowest ranked player to defeat Federer on the tour since Thanassi Kokkinakis at the 2018 Miami Open.

The loss leaves a mark on Federer’s impressive record in Cincinnati, which he has won a record seven times. It is the first time he has failed to reach the quarter-final stage since losing to Ivo Karlovic in the third round back in 2008.

“He was playing well. I was maybe struggling especially on the offensive, because overall I didn’t think I was feeling the ball badly.” Federer reflected during his press conference. “It’s just, you know, sort of fast-court conditions and when you sometimes then can’t rely on that serve to go or on the one-two punch, which I didn’t think was excellent today from my side, you need an opponent that maybe lets you get by some tougher moments, but he didn’t do that.”
“He was super clean. Defense, offense, serving well. Didn’t give me anything. He was everywhere. So it was tough for me, but excellent match by him. I was impressed.”

Rublev now has a meeting with compatriot Daniil Medvedev in what will be his first quarter-final at Masters level. Medvedev has reached the final of tournaments in Washington and at the Rogers Cup since Wimbledon. He is yet to drop a set this week and brushed aside Jan-Lennard Struff 6-2, 6-1, in his third round match.

“It’s going to be an interesting match for Russia.” Rublev previewed. “It will be a tough match for me because the way he plays. Nobody likes to play him.”
“I lost to him in a Challenger a few years ago, so it’s going to be interesting tomorrow.” He added.

The latest victory is only Rublev’s second over a top five player in his career. His first was against Dominic Thiem at the German Open last month.

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