Juan Martin del Potro dispatched Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday to move into his second straight Rotterdam World Tennis final and will face Frenchman Julien Benneteau for the title.
The second-seeded Argentine is now the top-ranked player left after Friday’s shock elimination of Roger Federer by Benneteau, who will be looking for his first career title after losing all seven of his previous finals.
Benneteau won an all-French semi-final in one hour and 50 minutes, beating compatriot Gilles Simon, the fifth seed, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2). Simon was treated midway through the second set for a left leg injury.
Benneteau had nine break chances, converting two, as he played his second semi-final of the season after Sydney last month.
Del Potro, who lost the Rotterdam final to Federer a year ago, lifted a pair of indoor titles last autumn in Vienna and Basel.
“Anything can happen in the finals, I have to play at my best and not give my opponent any chance to break,” Del Potro said. “I’m a little surprised not to see Federer in the final, but Benneteau plays well on hard courts and Roger can have a bad day like anyone.”
“Benneteau deserved to win the match. Playing someone like Roger is always a pleasure, but I’m focused on the match in front of me. This is my second final here, so I’ll try to win it for the first time,” he said.
The Argentine fired six aces in his win, breaking once per set in his victory in a first meeting with Dimitrov.
“I’m glad I was able to beat him, he’s a newcomer with a lot of potential,” Del Potro said.
Benneteau said he was delighted to have reached the final.
“It feels great, 24 hours after a big win [over Federer], to do it again. I found a way to win today against Gilles,” he said.
“It’s tough to play a countryman, we know each other’s game so well. But I felt like I played well, I kept up my level. I got the victory and I’m happy,” Benneteau said.
“The drama now is to finally win a final, I really hope I can do it,” he said.
AFP, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
Rafael Nadal struggled into the Brazil Open final on Saturday by downing Argentine lucky loser Martin Alund in three sets and later said he was handicapped by nagging knee pain.
The former world No. 1, who is recovering from a left knee injury, battled hard to dismiss his 27-year-old opponent, who is ranked 111 in the world, winning 6-3, 6-7, (2/7), 6-1 in nearly two hours.
Yesterday’s final was due to pit the Spanish star against Argentine David Nalbandian, who whipped Italian Simone Bolelli 6-3, 7-5 in 85 minutes in the other semi-final.
It will be Nadal’s second singles final since his comeback from a seven-month absence due to his left knee injury and then illness.
Last week, he competed in the Vina del Mar Open in Chile, losing the singles and doubles finals.
At a post-match press conference, Nadal said that while he was physically prepared for yesterday’s final, “my knee is not.”
“I don’t think I am the favorite at all. The conditions are much more favorable for David [Nalbandian],” he said. “I still have discomfort. Today the knee did not respond well. And in those circumstances, not being able to move well, to attack the ball, it will be very difficult.”
“I am going to do what I can ... But I think it is going to be a very complicated match for me,” he said.
AFP, SAN JOSE, California