American Sam Querrey denied Frenchman Fabrice Santoro’s bid for an unprecedented third consecutive title with a semi-final triumph on Saturday at the ATP Hall of Fame Championship.
The US third seed delivered Santoro’s first defeat in the US$500,000 grasscourt event 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) to book a date in yesterday’s final against US lucky loser Rajeev Ram, who ousted Belgium’s Olivier Rochus 6-3, 6-4.
“He’s playing really well,” Querrey said of Ram. “That’s going to be a tough one.”
Second-seed Santoro swatted a backhand cross-court winner on the first point of the tie-breaker but dropped the next six points and sent a backhand wide two points later to end the match.
“I played a very good match. He played a bit better,” Santoro said. “He served unbelievably well.”
Querrey, who did not surrender a break in the match, blasted an ace on every serve in the tie-breaker.
“I felt great,” Querrey said. “It’s nice in the tie-breaker when I serve four times and I serve four aces. That’s a first for me.”
“I’m doing a lot of work off the court and it’s paying off. First serve percentage was key for me. I wanted to get on his serve and get into the point quickly. I wanted to be to the net first and take over,” he said.
Ram, a 25-year-old of Indian heritage, only reached the main draw after US top seed Mardy Fish was called up by the US Davis Cup team for this weekend’s tie against Croatia because of an injury to Andy Roddick.
“To be through to my first ATP final is unbelievable. I can’t even put it into words. It’s something you work for for a long time,” Ram said.
“It’s interesting circumstances, but I just figured I would try to take advantage of the situation and it has gone well so far — a little bit of belief, a little bit of good fortune and a lot of hard work,” he said.
Santoro is expected to conclude his career later this year at the Paris Masters, although he would not rule out a trip to the Australian Open in January.
“So far it doesn’t look like it,” he said. “I will think about it.”
■SCHNYDER MAKES FINAL
Top-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland and No. 4 Agnes Szavay of Hungary advanced to the final of the Budapest Grand Prix on Saturday.
Schnyder beat Edina Gallovits of Romania 6-2, 6-4 in the semi-finals, while Szavay defeated sixth-seeded Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-1, 6-2.
Schnyder first had to complete a 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 quarter-final win over Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova, after the match was suspended in the first set on Friday because of rain.
The 21st-ranked Schnyder showed hardly a sign of fatigue in her second match, breaking Gallovits’ first service game and winning the first set in less than 30 minutes.
“It wasn’t my best game but the important thing is that I qualified for the final,” Schnyder said.