It’s France versus Spain

2010-02-06 00:00

THE semi-finals of the SA Tennis Open at Montecasino in Johannesburg today pit France against Spain.

Top seed Gael Monfils of France will face number three Feliciano Lopez of Spain and second-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer will be in a battle of wits with eighth-seeded Frenchman Stephane Robert as this ATP World Tour 250 event enters its final countdown to tomorrow’s much-anticipated title match.

Yesterday’s quarter-finals culminated when flamboyant Frenchman Monfils sliced and diced the game against Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu in a 6-1 first set that flashed by in 23 minutes. The 6-4 second set in the prime-time evening slot was a bit more measured, as Lu doesn’t know when to lie down.

World No. 13 Monfils produces those special moments that accompany the finest French champagne, leaving you light-headed at his sheer audacity.

The preceding match in the round of eight saw Lopez gradually getting to grips with the high altitude and a determined fifth seed in America’s Rajeev Ram to come out a 7-6 (7/2) 6-3 winner.

“My breathing is getting better, and will hopefully be 100% for the weekend,” Lopez said. “I would love to play David in the final; it will be fun, good for Spanish tennis, so I hope for him to win and me also.”

In the first quarter-final, eighth seed Stephane Robert of France beat the sentimental favourite, Jamaica’s Dustin Brown, 7-6 (5) 6-3 in just under 90 minutes.

“My serve was not that good and it took the first set to find the solution. Dustin plays crazy shots; you don’t know what he is going to do with the ball, so he is very dangerous,” Robert said.

India’s Somdev Devvarman had the unenviable challenge of toppling second seed Ferrer yesterday, but the Spaniard — ranked 18th in the world — was his usual super-smooth self as he glided around the court in characteristic fashion to realise a 6-1 6-3 victory.

“I am getting more comfortable on court, and my form is coming at the right time,” said Ferrer. “I have never played Robert before, but I know I must play my best game if I am to go on to win the final.”

Ferrer was involved in an epic three-setter against another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, in last year’s semi-finals. Chardy, who was a late withdrawal this year, had withstood three match points against the then world No. 13 to go on to a 1-6 7-6 (9) 7-6 (4) victory in two-and-a-half hours of frenzied tennis that left Ferrer in an agony of frustration.

This time round, Ferrer will be hoping the result goes his way — and with as little fuss and racket damage as possible, although the capacity Saturday crowd at Montecasino can be forgiven a little for wanting more of the same.

Today’s first semi-final is between Ferrer and Robert at 2 pm. Then it’s the turn of the 23-year-old who dares you to dream — and the effect is sure to be euphoric, although Lopez most certainly has designs of his own.


Singles quarter-finals: 8-Stephane Robert (Fra) bt Dustin Brown (Jam) 7-6 (7/5) 6-3; 2-David Ferrer (Esp) bt Somdev Devvarman(Ind) 6-1 6-3; 3-Feliciano Lopez (Esp) bt 5-Rajeev Ram (USA) 7-6 (7/2) 6-3; 1-Gael Monfils bt Yen-Hsun Lu (Tpe) 6-1 6-4.


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