By Anand Philar, IANS
Chennai : Fourth seed Mikhail Youzhny defeated defending champion Xavier Malisse 6-4, 6-4, to enter the semi-finals of the $436,000 ATP Chennai Open tennis tournament, that stretched into early Saturday morning.
Youzhny, the no.19 ranked Russian, had two service breaks against the Belgian who last year had beaten World No.2 Rafael Nadal en route to winning the singles crown here and went on to achieve a double by annexing the doubles title too.
Earlier, top seed Nadal justified his world no.2 as he pounded his way to a 6-3, 6-2, win over fellow-Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a rain-delayed match and set up a semi-final clash with compatriot Carlos Moya.
Third seed Moya, ranked 17 in the world, made the best of Frenchman Florent Serra’s stream of unforced errors and won 6-3, 6-4, in 73 minutes.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Croatian Marin Cilic recovered brilliantly to oust Robin Haase of the Netherlands 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to enter the semi-finals where he faces Youzhny.
Friday’s schedule went haywire due to sharp showers and the quarter-final matches concluded around 1.15 in Saturday morning.
In a hopelessly one-sided but high quality encounter that lasted 82 minutes, Nadal displayed imperious form against his sparring partner Garcia-Lopez who is ranked 90.
Using his blistering forehand and deception to great effect, Nadal subdued an increasingly despondent Garcia-Lopez who could not sustain the high level of tennis he played in the early phase of the match.
Heavy showers interrupted the match in the first set leading to nearly a three-hour stoppage. On resumption, Nadal played a near-flawless game to outclass his opponent. In patches, Garcia-Lopez did keep pace with Nadal, but with his serve ditching him as he doubled-faulted five times, he was broken once in the first set and twice in the second.
It was much the same case with 26-year-old Serra, who was ranked 32 in 2006, as he had more winners than Moya, but the difference between the two was Serra’s unforced errors.
When on a roll, Serra looked the better player as he blazed away with some great winners that often wrong-footed Moya who at 31, is the oldest survivor in the draw.
Moya had eight aces to none by Serra, who, however, had more winners, 23 to 20, but spoilt the record with 25 unforced errors as against just 10 by his opponent.
The Spaniard, who won back-to-back titles here in 2004 and 2005, was at his steady best, if not spectacular, bringing into play his vast experience to extricate himself from tight spots that were few and far in between.
Moya’s superior serve also had an impact on his progress. Serra was often unable to read the serves that had the angles if not power. In fact, Moya did not face a single breakpoint in the entire match.
In contrast, Serra struggled to hold serve with Moya always on the lookout for an easy kill. Consequently, Serra’s frustration at his own game that was slowly being dismantled further aggravated his situation.
Moya was off to a solid start with an early break of serve to put Serra under pressure. The Frenchman nearly dropped serve a second time in the eighth game that went to five deuces with Moya blowing three set points.
However, Moya went on to serve out the set, finishing with a brilliant inside-out forehand crosscourt with Serra running the wrong way.
The trend was much the same in the second set as Moya broke in the very first game and then nursed the crucial lead to close out the set with his eighth ace of the match.
After the match, Moya admitted that he profited from Serra’s unforced errors. “I played solid tennis overall and since he was not playing that well, I was quite relaxed,” he said.
About his serves, Moya said: “I served quite well tonight and did not have any breakpoints against me. The crucial part was when I broke Serra early in both the sets and that made a huge difference in the end.”