Vienna native Jurgen Melzer survived elbow pain and a late scare to defeat Nicolas Almagro and set up a final with his little known compatriot, Andreas Haider-Maurer, at the Bank Austria Trophy on Saturday.
Defending titleholder Melzer reached his second consecutive final in his home city with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Spaniard Almagro.
That win combined with a surprise 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (1/7), 6-3 result for 157th-ranked compatriot Haider-Maurer over Germany’s Michael Berrer set up the first all-Austrian final at the Stadthalle since 1988 when Horst Skoff beat Thomas Muster.
Haider-Maurer, a lucky loser from qualifying, got into the field because of a withdrawal and defeated the 43-year-old Muster in the first round.
Melzer admitted that he would not have been able to go on at any other event because of his physical condition.
“I felt the elbow in the second set, it really affected my serve,” the 29-year-old French Open semi-finalist said. “I was just trying to hang in. If this had been anywhere but Vienna I could have quit. I was worried that I would not be able to go on had we reached a third set. It was pretty painful, but I played a super match. I am very satisfied.”
Melzer’s victory in just over 90 minutes made up for his loss in a previous encounter with Almagro five months ago on clay in Madrid.
Melzer will be playing in his 10th ATP final, hoping to lift his record of 2-7.
Melzer, who won his 48th match of the season, secured the opening set with a break in the penultimate game on a backhand winner, then served out the set on the first of three opportunities as Almagro crossed into the net.
In the second, the Spaniard seemed to have the Austrian’s measure, seizing a 4-1 lead and looking ready to take it into a third, but boosted by his fans, Melzer spoiled that optimistic scenario, fighting back to recover his early break in the seventh game and duplicating the success with a second break for a 5-4 lead.
The hyped-up home player finished the job with back-to-back service winners to advance amid general mayhem from a sellout crowd.
The world No. 12 secured his second final of the season after Hamburg and now stands 18-9 in his hometown.
Underdog Haider-Maurer, meanwhile, could not believe his luck.
“This has been the most unbelievable week of my career, it’s amazing, but I owe a lot to the public, who have supported me all the way,” said a player who was 2-5 in ATP matches before this week.
OPEN SUD DE FRANCE
AFP, MONTPELLIER, FRANCE
Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic beat Albert Montanes of Spain 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) in the semi-finals of the Open Sud de France on Saturday to reach his sixth career final on French soil.
Ljubicic will meet Gael Monfils in the final after he dominated the all-French encounter against close friend Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-4.
Twice a winner in Lyon (2001 and last year), Ljubicic triumphed in Metz in 2005 and reached the finals in Marseille and at the Paris Masters the same year.
The 31-year-old, a recent semi-finalist in Stockholm and Beijing, continued his recent good form with a comfortable victory over Montanes, who may have been fatigued after ousting top seed Nikolay Davydenko in the quarter-finals.
Ljubicic, the former world No. 3, sewed up the first set in 27 minutes despite converting only 45 percent of the points on his first serve.