Nadal, Monaco through to semi-finals

HERO’S WELCOME::Although having never played there before, Rafael Nadal is being treated like a rock star in Chile, with the press picking up on every nice word he says

AP, VINA DEL MAR, Chile

Sat, Feb 09, 2013 - Page 19

Rafael Nadal’s knee held up for a third straight day as he won a doubles match at the VTR Open on Thursday, and he was to get twice the workout yesterday. The Spaniard teamed with Juan Monaco to reach the doubles semi-finals with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Guillaume Ruffin and Filippo Volandri; his third match in three days after being away from the game for seven months with an ailing left knee and a stomach virus.

Nadal was to play fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the singles quarter-finals yesterday, and is scheduled to play later the same day in doubles with Monaco against Argentines Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer.

This is exactly the type of test he had been looking for as he tries to get his body back up to the level where he can challenge the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray again.

Nadal and Monaco addressed the crowd on the court after winning, but skipped a news conference, having done four since arriving in Chile.

“I’m very happy to play again and enjoy things here in Chile,” Nadal said. “It’s a real pleasure playing with a friend.”

Standing alongside, Monaco added: “I’m happy to be able to help at his side.”

The former No. 1-ranked Nadal moved easily around the court, showing no signs his left knee was bothering him.

“He is worrying about his knees, he’s worried about his health. He’s worried about getting back to a good competitive level,” his spokesman Benito Perez-Barbadillo said.

“He’s not worried in a negative way,” he added. “What he cares about is to be healthy and be ready to be competitive at every level he plays, and to be at the same level as he was playing before.”

Nadal has said it may take months to get back to that level and, despite winning seven French Open titles, he said he feels like that event in May is still “light years” away.

Nadal won his last of eight doubles titles last year with Mark Lopez in Indian Wells. He has won 50 titles in singles — 11 in Grand Slams.

Nadal is being treated like a rock star in Chile, where he had never played until this week. News stories have turned up some distant relatives in the South American country and papers are picking up every flattering word he says.

“I feel like just another Chilean,” he said on Wednesday — a quote that showed up in the headlines of several Chilean newspapers.

OPEN SUD DE FRANCE

AP, MONTPELLIER, France

Frenchman Michael Llodra had 13 aces and did not concede a break point as he beat second-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) on Thursday to reach the Open Sud de France quarter-finals.

Llodra hit 20 winners in the first set and was the more aggressive player throughout, using his excellent volleying at the net to keep Tipsarevic back. The Serb saved two break points at 15-40 in the 11th game of the second set and then opened up a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, but Llodra fought back and sealed victory with consecutive aces.

“My serve was good today and that helps on a quick surface like this,” Llodra said. “There wasn’t much in it, but I think I had more chances than him. I’m very happy to have won in straight sets.”

Fourth-seeded Gilles Simon had 12 aces as he also advanced to the last eight with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 win against qualifier Arnau Brugues-Davi. The match would have been over quicker, but Simon only managed to convert three of his 14 break points against the Spaniard.

Simon next faces eighth-seeded Benoit Paire in an all-French match, while Llodra plays Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic — who led 6-0, 4-2 against seventh-seeded Viktor Troicki when the Serb retired from their match.

“He impressed me earlier,” Llodra said of Hajek. “The match is within my reach, but all of these matches are tough.”

Sergiy Stakhovsky also advanced by beating Tatsuma Ito of Japan 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) and the Ukrainian will face Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.

Third-seeded Richard Gasquet will meet No. 6 Julien Benneteau in another all-French match after coming back from an error-strewn second set to beat compatriot Gael Monfils 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

Benneteau cruised into the quarter-finals, taking little over an hour to defeat Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-4, 6-4.

ZAGREB INDOORS

AP, ZAGREB

Top-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia moved a step closer to a third title in his home event, beating Grega Zemlja of Slovenia 6-3, 6-2 on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the Zagreb Indoors.

Cilic won this tournament in 2009 and 2010 and improved his record at the event to 14-4. He hit 11 aces and broke his opponent three times to wrap up the win in 1 hour, 6 minutes.

“I am very pleased with the way I played,” Cilic said. “I felt he was nervous in the beginning and it helped me gain an early advantage.”

Cilic will face another Slovenian, Blaz Kavcic, who rallied to upset sixth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 and reach his third career quarter-final.

Baghdatis, the 2007 champion, failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set, and then pulled out of the doubles because of a foot injury.

“I did not want to take any risks,” he said.

Ivan Dodig also reached the quarter-finals by defeating fellow Croat Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (2/7), 6-3. Dodig wasted a match point at 5-4 in the second set, allowing Karlovic his only break.

Dodig was to play defending champion Mikhail Youzhny yesterday.

Fourth-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria also came from a set down to defeat Somdev Devvarman of India 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2. Devvarman had a 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker, but then lost four points in a row. Robin Haase of the Netherlands defeated fifth-seeded Martin Klizan of Slovakia 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Also on Thursday, Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic ousted Italy’s Flavio Cipolla 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 and Philipp Petzchner of Germany beat Croatian wild-card Dino Marcan 6-3, 6-4. Marcan entered the tournament as a replacement for second-seeded Andreas Seppi, who withdrew because of an illness.