Defending champion Fernando Verdasco ended Juan Martin del Potro’s hopes of reaching a first final following a long injury layoff with a 6-4, 6-4 victory in the semi-finals of the San Jose Open on Saturday.
The left-handed Spaniard used a lethal yet cool-headed attack to subdue 2009 US Open champion Del Potro, who was contesting only his 10th match since the Argentine underwent wrist surgery early last year.
While Del Potro showed flashes of his Grand Slam-winning form, his ground-strokes often lacked depth and he was unable to do much damage when returning serve.
For his part, top seed Verdasco dominated much of the action with his huge forehand, excellent court coverage and solid service returns.
The 27-year-old Spaniard broke Del Potro in the opening game and never looked back, winning the set with a hooking serve and cross-court forehand winner.
Del Potro improved in the second set, breaking the world No. 9 to move 3-1 ahead by ripping a cross-court forehand winner.
However, Verdasco broke back in the next game with a big return at the Argentine’s feet and then broke Del Potro again to jump ahead 5-4 with a forehand winner down the line.
Verdasco, who has only been broken twice in four matches, then served out the match at love, winning it with a 172mph ace to the corner.
Verdasco will play young Canadian sensation Milos Raonic in the final.
Swede Robin Soderling is one win away from retaining his World Indoor tournament title after beating Victor Troicki 7-5, 6-4 in the semi-finals on Saturday.
The top seed was to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga yesterday after the French No. 8 seed reached his first ATP final since October 2009 by defeating Croatian Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).
Soderling’s victory was based on a solid service game as Troicki was allowed only two break chances, while the Swede broke the Serbian’s serve in the final game of both sets.
Tsonga, who had extra time to prepare for his match after -quarter-final opponent Tomas Berdych withdrew through illness on Friday, converted his only break opportunity in the fifth game on his way to taking the opening set.
Ljubicic, twice a beaten finalist in Rotterdam, improved his returns in the second and secured an early break, but the Croatian handed the advantage back when serving for the set at 5-3 and Tsonga clinched the match in the tiebreak.
AP, COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil
Nicolas Almagro of Spain won his eighth ATP title, defeating Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) in the final on Saturday of the Brazil Open.
The Spaniard also won this event in 2008 and has won all eight of his tournament titles on clay.
Dolgopolov, who reached the quarter-finals last month in the Australian Open, was appearing in his first ATP final. Almagro and Dolgopolov had played twice before, splitting their matches.
Almagro defeated Dolgopolov on clay in last year’s French Open and Dolgopolov won a few months later in a non-clay event in Shanghai.
However, Almagro was in almost total control and did not face a break point.
In fact, he was in control during the entire tournament and dropped just one set — that to Juan Ignacio Chela in the semi-finals.