Muller Passes Serious Test In Sofia
Mannarino loses in opener
Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller got the better of Italian Andreas Seppi for the fourth successive time on Thursday for a place in the Diema Xtra Sofia Open quarter-finals. In a tense seventh FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, third seed Muller struck 23 aces to edge past Seppi 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(2) in two hours and 34 minutes.
"To play Andy is never easy; he's a great competitor," said Muller. "In a close match like that, you have be lucky, and luck was a little bit on my side at the end. Overall, I'm happy with my performance."
When asked about his comeback from a set down, Muller added, "You just have to hang in there. I had a few chances to come back in the first set and I didn't take them. Obviously, I was a little upset about that, but I told myself to just keep going because I knew I might get a few more chances."
Muller won six of the first seven points in the deciding set tie-break - including two aces - to move to within one win of his first ATP World Tour semi-final of 2018. Two years ago, at the inaugural tournament in Sofia, Muller reached the semi-finals (l. to Bautista Agut) and he will next prepare to challenge Romania’s Marius Copil, who swept past Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 6-2, 6-2 in 67 minutes.
Marcos Baghdatis rallied from a set down to upset second seed Adrian Mannarino, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-1. The Cypriot will play qualifier Jozef Kovalik for a spot in the semi-finals. Kovalik, ranked 187 in the world, was a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 winner over Lukas Lacko.
"I played really smart today; I changed the rhythm a lot and broke him down," Baghdatis said. "It will be another fight tomorrow (against Kovalik); all I'm thinking about now is getting a good night's sleep tonight and how to recover."
Elsewhere, sixth seed Viktor Troicki was also pushed to a third set tie-break before outlasting Denis Istomin, 7-6(4), 1-6, 7-6(5). Troicki stormed to a 6/2 lead but squandered three match points before clinching the match on his fourth opportunity.
Afterwards, the Serbian felt nerves and a lack of focus threw him off his game. "I didn't really play good; I was tight throughout the match," Troicki said. "I hope I can loosen up and play more aggressively tomorrow."
World No. 83 Maximilian Marterer, who is targeting a Top 50 finish in the year-end ATP Rankings, held his nerve to knock out eighth-seeded Portuguese Joao Sousa 7-5, 7-6(0) in one hour and 40 minutes. He’ll now face Bosnia & Herzegovina qualifier Mirza Basic in the last eight.