Gstaad: Bellucci Sets Up QF With Lopez, Gulbis Defeats Paire

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After a three-set match that lasted over two hours, Bellucci defeated Youzhny to set up a quarterfinal with Feliciano Lopez, who triumphed over Jan Hajek.

Bellucci started the match playing his explosive game, which features hard-hitting forehands balanced with the unforced errors that spring from such an aggressive mentality.  Although the no. 60-ranked Brazilian had 2 BPs against Youzhny’s serve early in the match at 1-1, he went for too much on his forehands, which gave room for Youzhny to settle into the match.

Youzhny countered with his own offense, coming behind on his serve to finish off points at the net with his forehand.  He targeted Bellucci’s backhand, which is perhaps the weaker part of Bellucci’s game.  The left-handed Bellucci is not exactly known for his mental fortitude in high-pressure situations, and this showed when he double-faulted to go down a BP at 2*-3.  Youzhny broke to go up 4*-2 after Bellucci hit a wide forehand.

4th seed (no. 28-ranked) Youzhny, who has been having a quiet season this year, was broken back straight after earning the break.  Facing BP, Youzhny hit a short backhand up the middle, which Bellucci attacked with his forehand.

The match featured many momentum changes, with neither player really capitalizing on positive shifts.  However, Youzhny gained 2 SPs on Bellucci’s serve at 5-4*.  While Bellucci saved the first SP with a strong serve, he fell face forward on the clay on the next point — Youzhny took the first set, 6-4.

Given how neither player really capitalized on his advantage in the 1st set, the outcome of the match was hardly determined.  After Bellucci broke to go up 2*-1 in the second set, Youzhny seemed to build up his error count, as the backhand shots that would normally have been winners in the 1st set ended up spraying outside the lines.  He went down a double break, and Bellucci closed out the 2nd set, 6-2.

The third set was more closely fought, although it felt more like a viewing of Bellucci’s winners, which weren’t always the reason for Youzhny’s errors.  Youzhny seemed tactically flustered by the increasing confidence of Bellucci’s game.  Bellucci went up a break at 4*-3 in the 3rd set, and he won the match at 6-4 on his second match point, with a smash.

In a similar battle of beguilingly talented yet inconsistent players, Ernests Gulbis defeated Benoit Paire 5-7 7-6(3) 6-4.  It’s surprising to see how the 23-year old Paire has advanced to a no. 47 ranking, while the widely lauded Gulbis lingers at a no. 72 ranking.  Given Gulbis’ upset win over no. 7-ranked Tomas Berdych at R1 in Wimbledon, it’d be presumptuous to overlook Gulbis’ chances for pulling an “upset,” even if said upset is over an equally inconsistent and whimsical player such as Paire.   Crafty Frenchman Paire frustrated Ernests Gulbis with dropshots and his change of pace.  Off a beautiful BHDTL, Paire capitalized on his break to take the first set, 7-5.

The second set appeared as if it would progress in similar fashion, as Gulbis’ body language spoke of resignation.  Although he went up a break to serve for the 2nd set at 5*-3, he was broken back after netting a forehand.  Paire’s “Allez” following the break seemed to resign Gulbis even further.  Gulbis went down 0-40 on his serve at 5*-5, yet he dug up solid serves and an aggressive BH to hold.  In the TB, Gulbis edged out Paire 7-3 to take the 2nd set.

In the 3rd set, Gulbis showed his growing confidence, as he shouted a loud “Come on” after holding for a 5-3 lead.  Gulbis found his range as an aggressive player — as his shots found the inside of the lines, Paire grew tactically frustrated with his dwindling set of options to offset the Latvian.  Gulbis won the match 6-4 in the decider, to set up a QF with the winner of the match between 3rd seed Stanislas Wawrinka and Paul Henri-Mathieu.  Gstaad will be Gulbis’ second QF appearance at an ATP event in 2012.

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