Tomas Berdych beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 on Thursday to set up a semi-final meeting with top-ranked Rafael Nadal at the World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi.
Robin Soderling, meanwhile, overcame Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 to set up a meeting with No. 2-ranked Roger Federer. Nadal and Federer both received byes into the last four of the exhibition tournament.
“It is just the perfect start by playing matches like this one and then the next day to play the No. 1 player in the world,” Berdych said.
Berdych got off to a strong start against the error-prone Baghdatis, moving out to a 3-1 lead on his way to winning the first set. Baghdatis, the Cypriot No. 20, fought back in the second set, mixing in drop shots with a potent serve that produced several well-timed aces to level the match.
Berdych appeared to be coasting in the third, breaking Baghdatis in the sixth game and taking a 5-2 lead. However, some erratic play by Berdych allowed Baghdatis back into the match. He tied the set at 5-5 with an ace, before hitting a drop shot into the net to give Berdych a 6-5 lead on his way took to the win.
Baghdatis said he was satisfied with his performance despite the loss.
“This is my first match in two months and to play a top player is not easy,” he said. “But I am pretty happy with my performance, playing good tennis, moving well on court. There were some moments in the match that I played well.”
The Cypriot, who now heads to Brisbane where he starts the new season, said he wants to work on his serve which “has to improve if I have to play rivals at this level.”
The fifth-ranked Soderling also raced out to an early 3-1 lead in the first set thanks to a powerful serve that rattled Tsonga into making a slew of errors.
Tsonga found his rhythm in the second set, helped by a greatly improved serve. He hit an ace to go up 4-3 and two more to go ahead 6-5 before rallying to win the tiebreaker when Soderling hit a return shot wide.
However, after that, it was all Soderling. He broke Tsonga en route to a 3-0 lead and then again to go up 5-1. Soderling clinched the win with an easy smash after Tsonga only managed to weakly return a powerful forehand.
Former German No. 1 Nicolas Kiefer announced his retirement from tennis on Thursday, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
The 33-year-old won a men’s doubles silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and clinched the last of his six ATP titles in 2000, the year in which he achieved a career-high world ranking of four.
“At the start of the new year, you set yourself targets and I’ve achieved mine on Aug. 11 of the year which is ending,” Kiefer said on his Web site.
“With the birth of our daughter Mabelle Emilienne, my greatest wish has been fulfilled. From now on, I would like to accompany and shape this new life,” he said. “Therefore, after deep thought, I’ve decided to end my career as a tennis professional.”
Kiefer looked on course to follow in the footsteps of six-time grand slam champion Boris Becker when he won the junior titles at the Australian and US Opens in 1995.
However, like many promising youngsters, he struggled to translate that success on the main tour and never managed to reach a final of a grand slam.
After reaching the Toronto Masters final in 2008, Kiefer struggled to shake off a wrist injury and as a result his ranking nose-dived to 722nd in the world.
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