Almagro beats Hewitt to reach Stockholm SFs, Baghdatis also wins

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Marcos Baghdatis and Nicolas Almagro reached the last four of the Stockholm Open after both posted straight sets wins on Friday.

On paper, Baghdatis had the easier route, as he took on 95th-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.  But the contest proved much tighter in reality, and the Cypriot sealed the only break of serve in the first set. This was in spite of Berankis struggling to make his deliveries land in the court: he had a poor 27% first serve percentage in the first set.

This improved considerably in the second set, as both players held firm in their service games and saved all break points against them. Baghdatis, an Australian Open and Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2006, was the stronger player in the tie-break, and wrapped up victory 6-3, 7-6 (4) in just under one and a half hours. The seventh seed will next face the winner of the match between Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Sergiy Stakhovsky.

Third seed Nicolas Almagro looked to have the tougher encounter as he played former world number one Lleyton Hewitt in his quarter-final match. The former Wimbledon and US Open champion no longer plays a full schedule on the ATP Tour, but he is still capable of upsetting younger players, and has lost little of his legendary tenacity.

However, the Australian ran into an in-form Almagro on Friday. The world number 12 dominated the opening set, breaking the Hewitt serve twice without facing a single break point himself. The second set was much more closely contested. Hewitt upped his first serve percentage, hitting three aces and managing to break the Spaniard’s serve for the first time. The rally proved to be short-lived, however, as a well-executed smash allowed Almagro to break for 5-4. He then served it out to complete the 6-1, 6-4 victory in one hour and six minutes.

In the semi-finals, Almagro will play either Mikhail Youzhny or Tomas Berdych. Although currently in 10th place in the Race to London, Almagro has a reasonable chance of making the eight-player ATP World Tour Finals, which begin on 5th November.

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