Top-seed Mardy Fish survived a brave fightback by fellow American Ryan Harrison to reach the final of the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles with a 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3) win on Saturday.
Fish won the third set tiebreaker 7-3 in bright afternoon sunshine, closing out the match with his seventh ace after a see-saw contest that lasted 2 hours, 11 minutes at the LA Tennis Center.
In the other semi-final match, Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis knocked off American Alex Bogolomov in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) to advance to his second career final.
Gulbis won the second set tiebreaker 7-4.
“Being in the final is very big for me, I’m on a comeback and this is a boost for my confidence,” Gulbis said. “I have chances in the final.”
Gulbis won the International Tennis Championship in Delray Beach last year.
Ranked 21st in the world as recently as February, Gulbis entered the tournament on a five-match losing streak and is currently ranked 84th.
LA resident Fish, who won his sixth ATP World Tour title at last week’s Atlanta Tennis Championship, raised both arms in triumph after scraping past the 19-year-old Harrison.
“He kept his level and credit to him,” Fish said courtside, having stormed into a commanding 5-0 lead in the tiebreak, before clinching the match.
“He came out in the second set and fought hard and didn’t give up, didn’t let the moment get to him. He could have easily won that match,” Fish said. “Tiebreakers are kind of a coin flip out here. I was lucky enough to get up there and put some pressure on him at the end.”
Fish, who beat Harrison in straight sets in the semi-finals in Atlanta last week, was delighted with his own form in a one-sided opening set at the LA Tennis Center.
“That was probably the best set of tennis I have played all year,” the 29-year-old said. “I lost five, six points and it was as clean of a set as I could possibly play.”
However, Fish also paid tribute to Harrison, who is widely regarded as one of the most exciting young prospects in US men’s tennis.
“This only the second semi-final of his whole career,” Fish said. “He’s way ahead of where I was at 19 and I have a lot of respect for his game.”
AP, UMAG, CROATIA
Marin Cilic defeated Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-2, 6-2 on Saturday to advance to the Croatia Open final against Ukraine’s Aleksandr Dolgopolov.
The fourth-seeded Cilic dropped serve only once in the match, at the start of the second set, before becoming the first Croat to reach the Umag final since Goran Prpic defeated compatriot Goran Ivanisevic in 1990.
In the other semi-final, the second-seeded Dolgopolov beat Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-4, 6-4.
“It was not as easy as it looks,” Cilic said. “I had to play really hard to win. My serve went up and down, especially in the second set, but I am really happy how I played.”
Fognini, seeded sixth, led 2-0 in the second set before losing six consecutive games. The 24-year-old Italian had been trying to reach his first ATP World Tour final. He is now 0-6 in semi-finals.
Fognini beat Cilic in straight sets in their only previous encounter, in 2009 in Monte Carlo.
Dolgopolov missed two break points in the first set, but broke Ferrero for a 4-3 lead.
In the second set, the Ukrainian raced to a 2-0 lead before Ferrero leveled at 3-3. However, another break for 5-4 gave Dolgopolov the crucial advantage.