Gael Monfils downs Haas in three sets

LIAM NAPIER AND DAVID LONG
Last updated 21:31 10/01/2013
David Ferrer
Peter Meecham/ Fairfax Media Zoom
David Ferrer reacts to winning the Heineken Tennis Open for a record equaling forth time.

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You couldn't ask for more.

Three-time defending champion David Ferrer will take on former world No 7 Gael Monfils in Friday's second semifinal - a match worthy of the tournament final - after the Monfils took out an epic three-set quarter-final battle with Tommy Haas.

The Frenchman, a fitting wildcard now ranked 99, served up 19 aces and saved an incredible 15 of 17 break points to claim a stunning 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 upset to prevent the third seed from advancing to the final four.

In three attempts, Ferrer has not beaten Monfils.

"All the semifinals are complicated. Gael Monfils is getting back. He was injured a long time and he's going to be a top player again," Ferrer said. "He's playing a lot of important matches."

A classic, high-class contrast of German efficiency versus unpredictable French flair was encapsulated in a gripping tennis encounter on Auckland's centre court.

This was easily the best match of the tournament, probably for some time. Drama, skill, tension - it had all the ingredients.  

Haas initially looked the complete package, displaying immaculate awareness of the angles as he cruised through the solid first set, taking it in 36 minutes after breaking Monfils twice.

To the delight of an appreciative full house, the flamboyant, popular and erratic underdog then found his A game. Well, for the most part.

Monfils mixed casual abandon with sublime shot making and pure entertainment - at one point he skied a ball and, knowing couldn't get to the return, tied his shoes laces as Haas creamed the winner.

At one break each leading into the 12th game of a heated second set, where Haas copped a code warning for swearing, Monfils broke once more to force a deciding third tie. Haas was clearly unimpressed. 

The 14-year veteran threw his racquet, frustrated he didn't take his chance to close out the match.

Age appeared to weary Haas in the final set - the 34-year-old was, after all, the oldest player left in the tournament.

Monfils surged back from 0-40 down to make a crucial hold in the seventh game for a 4-3 lead and didn't look back.

Earlier, Ferrer shock off his second-round struggles to blitz Lukas Lacko 6-2 6-1 in 54 minutes and register 10 wins in a row here.

Ferrer's all-court game and deft touch returned as he adjusted to the apparent quickening of the surface.

"I'm more convinced with my game today. I played much better than yesterday," he said.

"The first round it was difficult to play good. Yesterday it was a surprise with the court being fast. Today I know that. I try to improve my game and have more focus."

Kohlschreiber to face Querrey

It will be the big serving Sam Querrey against the all court player Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first semifinal of the Heineken Open tomorrow.

Querrey beat Canadian qualifier Jesse Levine 6-4 7-6 in the second match of the day with Kohlschreiber defeating Xavier Malisse from Belgium 7-6 6-4 earlier in the day.

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Levine came through qualifying to make the quarterfinals and yesterday put in a superb performance to beat American Brian Baker in three sets.

But Querrey was another step up for him, serving 14 aces, compared to just three from Levine.

Kohlschreiber, who won this tournament in 2008, had one of the best years of his career last season and shot up to No 20 in the world rankings and he looks to be continuing that form in 2013.

It was a workman like, rather than thrilling performance against Malisse, who is ranked 62 in the world, but Kohlschreiber is generally a player gets better as the week goes on in Auckland.

Malisse did have a break point in the first set but was unable to grab it and the set eventually went into a tiebreak, which the second seeded German won 8-6.

The second set was almost as close with Kohlschreiber getting the solitary break of serve that confirmed his spot in the final four.

Kohlschreiber has played Querrey three times in the past with Querrey winning twice.

Their last meeting was on the clay at Roland Garros, where Querrey won in four sets.

Heineken Open results

Quarter-final singles

Gael Monfils (FRA) bt [3] Tommy Haas 3-6 7-5 6-3

[1] David Ferrer (ESP) bt Lucas Lacko (SVK) 6-2 6-1

[4] Sam Querrey (USA) bt [Q] Jesse Levine (CAN) 6-4 7-6(5)

[2] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) bt X Malisse (BEL) 7-6(6) 6-4

Quarter-final doubles

[1] Colin Fleming (GBR)/ Bruno Soares (BRA) bt Benjamin Becker (GER)/Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 6-4 6-3

- © Fairfax NZ News

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