Unseeded Belgian Xavier Malisse slipped in the second set but took the helm in the third to upset top seed Czech Tomas Berdych 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Berdych was returning to the tour after a successful grass court campaign in which he broke through the pack and landed squarely in the top ten.
Malisse served well when the pressure was on and was extremely aggressive on the return of serve as he managed to break Berdych twice in the final set. Berdych’s ouster means fourth seeded Main Cilic is the highest seed left in the tourney.
Malisse will hope to keep that third set momentum on Saturday when he tackles 25-year old Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, who stunned Spain’s third seed Fernando Verdasco 7-6(3), 6-4 in an afternoon match. The 8th seeded Baghdatis is appearing in his fourth ATP semifinal or better this season. Marcos has proved himself on all surfaces and will be a tough match for Malisse.
Baghdatis has added just enough offence to his sound defensive play to make him a threat to anyone. Baghdatis has developed the ability to be patient through the low cycles, a trait Verdasco did not have on Friday. The Spaniard struggled with his serve most of the day but when he was blown out in the tiebreaker, it seemed his will was broken. Baghdatis took charge and grabbed the one break he needed to play Saturday.
Baghdatis has one title this season and 4 career titles while the 30-year old Malisse has 3 career championships and none this season. Baghdatis is 30-17 this season and Malisse stands at 19-15.
David Nalbandian and Gilles Simon just tried to survive against each other in the Belgian’s 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 triumph. France’s Simon had 54 unforced errors at the end of the second set. Nalbandian fought with his serve all day long.
Simon jumped on the first set and seemed ready to close the match in set two when he broke the frustrated Nalbandian in the first game of the second set. The Belgian settled down and broke right back and then ran off a string of three more games to gain the upper hand for good.
Simon seemed to lose his cool, his perspective and his will to win after the second set. He raised his arms in despair after he missed ground strokes and on two occasions with break opportunities he changed his service strategy. Instead of being patient, the Frenchman followed his serve to net and Nalbandian hit two passing shots to win.
The best tennis of the day was played by Croatian Marin Cilic. Cilic not only played the best tennis, her also served notice that it was his tournament to lose. Cilic extended his flawless record against upstart Janko Tipsarevic with a strong straight set victory, 7-6 (4), 6-4. Tipsarevic is very much in form but not yet at Cilic’s level. The Croatian did not lose serve during the match and showed a good variety of ground and net play.
Cilic improved his hard court record this season to 24-5, just behind Andy Roddick. Baghdatis is at 22-8 and in third place on hardcourt. The two could very well end up in the finals on Sunday.
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