Gulbis Edges Karlovic In Vienna

Latvian topples Croat in two tie-break sets; Ferrer, Monfils join semifinal surge

Resurgent Latvian Ernests Gulbis powered his way into his first semi-final of 2015 on Friday, edging ace king Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4), 7-6(5) at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna.

Gulbis improved to 2-0 against the No. 7-seeded Croat, although the foes had not faced each other since 2010 in the Delray Beach final. Gulbis, 27, came into the tournament on a five-match losing streak, but he has shown some late-season life with wins this week over Lucas Miedler, John Isner and Karlovic.

Although Gulbis was out-aced by his 6-foot-11 opponent 19-12, he landed 72 per cent of his first serves and saved all five break points he faced.

Asked what worked well against Karlovic, Gulbis said, "My serve and my concentration level in the tiebreaks. There were one or two points that decided the match, so it was really important to keep my concentration."

In the semi-finals, Gulbis will meet Steve Johnson, who dispatched Kevin Anderson 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-4 in the quarter-finals to advance. He is winless in two career encounters against the American.

"I executed the game plane well," said Johnson of his upset victory. "When I got my teeth into a point, I just kind of hung in there. It worked well today."

Top seed David Ferrer furthered his case for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Friday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 8 seed Fabio Fognini.

Ferrer improved to a perfect 9-0 against the Italian in FedEx Head2Head matchups (19-2 in sets). They last met each other earlier this year in the Rio de Janeiro final, Ferrer also prevailing in that contest 6-2, 6-3.

"I know Fabio is  a very good player. He has very good shots. It's never an easy win," said Ferrer. "But I think he lost his focus in the second set, his concentration."

Fognini, who finished with 22 winners, got out to a quick start, an early break giving him a 3-1 first-set advantage. But a string of unforced errors would haunt him (he would finish with 36 on the day), and Ferrer would level the match at 3-all.

Trailing 3-0 in the second set, Fognini took a medical timeout to have his right foot examined. But nothing could help him work his way back into the match against Ferrer, who converted four of five break-point chances and sealed the win on a Fognini double fault.

With the win, the ultra-steady Ferrer reached 50 wins (50-12) for the sixth straight season and seventh overall. He is aiming for his fifth title of 2015.

With 17 days left in the Emirates ATP Race to London, two spots remain up for grabs for the Nov. 15-22 event. As of Friday, 990 ATP Race to London points separated No. 8 Ferrer from No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and the Spaniard can further widen the gap with a semi-final win in Vienna.

Ferrer’s competition in the semi-finals will be No. 6 seed Gael Monfils, who survived an upset bid from Czech Lukas Rosol to advance 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3.

Despite his acrobatic all-court play, it was Monfils’ serve that was the difference on Friday. Despite dropping the first set in a tie-breaker, the Frenchman never faced a break point in the one hour and 52-minute contest, smacking 18 aces and winning 82 per cent of his first-serve points.

"Tonight I really enjoyed myself," said Monfils. "I had some good shots, some good trick shots and enjoyed the support. That's why we all play tennis."

Rosol, who was playing for his first semi-final of the year, had shocked Monfils’ compatriot Tsonga in the second round, snapping a 14-match losing streak against Top-10 opponents. But there would be no upset on Friday, as the 29-year-old Monfils improved to 34-16 on the year (16-8 on hard courts). He finished with 40 winners to Rosol’s 32.

Monfils, No. 21 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is chasing his first title of 2015, his only final coming in Marseille, where he fell to fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon. The 2008 Vienna finalist is playing in his first event since the US Open.

A sellout crowd of 9,100 fans took in the action on Friday, a tournament record.

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