Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ivan Ljubicic Saves 6 M.P. to Set Up Monaco SF Clash

Ivan Ljubicic
Ivan Ljubicic Saves 6 M.P. to Set Up Monaco SF Clash

Third seed Ivan Ljubicic saved six match points and fired 15 aces as he defeated Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6) to reach the semifinals of the Hypo Group Tennis International on Thursday.

The 29-year-old Ljubicic, who is making his fourth appearance at the event, is through to the semifinals for the first time; his previous best result was a quarterfinal finish (l. to Tabara) in 2001 when it was held in St. Poelten. It is the World No.29’s third ATP semifinal of the season, having finished as runner-up in Zagreb (l. to Stakhovsky) and reached the semifinals in Doha (l. to Wawrinka). He now improves to 13-9 for the season and will face second seed and defending champion Juan Monaco for a place in his first clay court final.

"I'm very happy that tomorrow I have the opportunity to [advance to] play my first clay-court final," said Ljubicic. "It's a fantastic opportunity for me to play matches, win some and, of course, gain points. I didn't play so well this season so every match to me is important, so I'll try to improve my ranking every day."

World No. 14 Monaco captured the title in Pörtschach last year, one of three ATP titles he won in 2007, with victory over Gael Monfils in the final; he also reached the quarterfinals (l. to Horna) on his debut in 2006. The 24-year-old is through to his third ATP semifinal of 2008; standing at 22-10 for the season he also finished runner-up at Vina del Mar (W/O vs Gonzalez) and reached the semifinals in Auckland (l. to Kohlschreiber).

Monaco had earlier eased into the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Jiri Vanek and afterwards, having played two matches in one day, commented: "I'm very happy, also I'm very tired. I don't remember the last time that I played two matches in one day but I'm so happy and I hope to stay playing like this to reach the final here in Pörtschach."

Looking ahead to the semifinal match-up with Ljubicic, Monaco said: "It's going to be difficult, very tough. He's a great player with a lot of experience. He's a great server also. I have played him one time (head-to-head) and I lost, in Paris two years ago. So it's a good time to play again."

Nikolay Davydenko, who is writing a blog for this week, also won two matches on Thursday. The two-time former champion and World No. 4 overcame big-serving American John Isner 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3 in one hour and 58 minutes for a place in the quarterfinals. Isner struck 21 aces, but it was Davydenko who converted three of five break point opportunities to win. World No. 85 Isner dropped to 0-4 lifetime against Top 10 opponents.

Davydenko, who is making his seventh appearance at the event, has captured the title in 2005 (d. Melzer) and 2006 (d. Pavel) after finishing as runner-up in 2003 (l. to Roddick). The 26-year-old, who captured his second ATP Masters Series shield in Miami (d. Nadal) earlier in the season, improved to 32-9 on the season after beating Andreas Seppi 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 win in the last eight. It was the pair's fourth career meeting.

Sixth-seeded Italian Seppi had defeated Israeli 7-5, 6-1 earlier in the day. At a career-high ranking of No. 32, the 24-year-old Seppi was a semifinalist at last week’s ATP Masters Series Hamburg. It was Seppi’s first time past the second round in Pörtschach, having fallen at that stage on his debut last year.

Davydenko will meet Russian compatriot Igor Kunitsyn for the first time since 2004 St. Peterburg, after Kunitsyn also won two matches on Thursday.

The World No. 96 first beat Slovakian qualifier Blaz Kavcic 6-1, 6-4, then fought his way into his first ATP semifinal since 2006 St. Peterburg (l. to T. Johansson) after beating Austrian Jurgen Melzer - who celebrated his 27th birthday today - 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours and 18 minutes.

Melzer, who finished runner-up in 2005, had earlier been presented a birthday cake after his 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory over eighth-seeded Dutchman Robin Haase.

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AP Photo/ Kerstin Joensson