In today’s semi-finals encounter in Croatia, German Tommy Haas overcame the stern test of Lucky Loser Dan Evans of Great Britain in 3 sets, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in 1 hour and 58 minutes. It was the pairs first professional meeting, with Dan Evans competing in his first ATP Tour Level semi-final.
Haas, the World No. 12, got off to a good start breaking in the Brits first service game for a 2-0 lead. World No. 147 Evans responded instantly, settling his nerves by breaking back and then remained strong on serve to reach the business end of the set locked in at 4 all. Evans came out serving to stay in the set at 4-5 but fell back 30-40 to the German who looked set to pounce. The British No. 2 resisted with a scintillating back hand down the line to save the set point and hold for 5 all. Evans grew in confidence and continued to fire winners, eventually breaking on his 4th opportunity on Haas’ serve and then serving out the first set from 15-30 down to win 7-5.
Again, set number 2 was a tight affair with just one break point arising for Evans in the first 9 games. The Brit was holding serve the more comfortably of the two throughout, but his lack of consistency that he has been labelled with in his career proved telling in the 10th game as a few unforced errors along with winning just 50% of points behind his second serve caused him to drop serve and the set 6-4.
Entering into his 18th set of tennis over the last 8 days, it looked to be taking its toll on Evans as we entered the final set as his opponent, who only started playing in Zagreb Thursday was full of confidence with the second set under his belt and his experience looking to be the defining factor. Evans continued to hang on, saving 3 break points in game number 6 with big serves and more huge groundstrokes, but despite being far from his best the German broke and was soon 5-2 up. Tommy Haas had not previously reached the final of an ATP Tour event when competing as the top seed, but today he was to change that by winning the final set 6-3 to reach the final on what is his first appearance in Zagreb.
His opponent in tomorrow’s final is home favourite Marin Cilic who won the first semi-final against qualifier Bjorn Phau in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 in 85 minutes. The German, Phau, who is currently ranked at 358 in the world was competing in his first ATP Tour semi-final since April 2009 when playing in Houston, and had a couple of break point opportunities in the first set but couldn’t convert. On the other hand, Cilic needed just the one chance to win the set 6-3. The 3 time champion Cilic was far from his best though, only making 49% of his first serves in and dropping serve twice in the second set. Cilic was able to carve out 9 opportunities of his own though and converted 3 times to win the set and match 6-4.
That win for Cilic means that it is the eighth time in nine years that a Croatian will contest in his home final in Zagreb tomorrow, but will it be a maiden Zagreb title for Haas or a 4th title for Cilic?