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Gulbis Makes It Two Former Champs Into Semis

[column size=”00-1″ last=”1″ style=”1″]by Steve Dorsey

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Tommy Haas and Ernests Gulbis, two former champions at the Delray Beach ITC, will square off against each other on Saturday after winning their respective quarterfinal matches Friday afternoon at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.

Both players reached the semifinals in distinctively different matches Friday, with No. 2 seed Haas needing three sets to get past Ivan Dodig 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-1 after qualifier Gulbis breezed to a straight-set win that took less than an hour.

The Haas-Dodig match was a roller-coaster ride that was filled with dramatic twists and turns, particularly in the first set when Dodig won five consecutive games after Haas led 4-0. Dodig had two set points, but Haas broke serve to knot the set at 5-all and switch the momentum back to Haas.

Haas squeezed a backhand return down the line on match point in the tiebreaker to win the first set. Dodig roared back to win the second set, but Haas was dominate in the third set to claim a berth in the semifinals.

“Strange first set,” said Haas, who is ranked No. 19 in the world. “I started off with momentum, then he had it. Three times in a row of not holding serve, that really frustrated me. I told myself to make it tougher on him. I played a little better in the tiebreaker and momentum went back again on my side.”

Haas, who at 34 is the oldest ATP World Tour player ranked in the top 50, said he anticipates a challenging match Saturday against Gulbis, who became the seventh qualifier to reach the semifinals at the Delray Beach ITC with a 6-1, 6-4 win against Daniel Munoz-De La Nava.

“He’s obviously very talented. He’s got a lot of firepower,” Haas said of Gulbis, who needed only 43 minutes to dispatch De La Nava. “He’s a guy that when he’s feeling good and he’s gaining some confidence, he’s very tough to beat. He has the ability to make spectacular shots. He’s shown that, being a champion here in 2010 and winning in Los Angeles (2011).”

Gulbis, who notched his first career ATP World Tour title here three years ago, earned himself some well-deserved rest with his quick quarterfinal match, having played six matches this week to reach the semifinals.

“It’s energy I can store,” Gulbis said of his quick straight-sets victory. “Everything was more or less good. There was nothing I didn’t like about today’s match. I felt like I could win every game.”

De La Nava, who at No. 154 was the lowest ranked player remaining in the draw, was coming off a three-set upset of No. 8 seed Xavier Malisse on Thursday that lasted just more than two hours. Gulbis, who is ranked No. 109, upset No. 3 seed Sam Querrey to reach the quarterfinals and will be playing in his seventh career ATP World Tour semifinal Saturday. He’ll be facing a rejuvenated Haas who has battled back from injuries in recent years and last year was the ATP Comeback Player of the Year.

“I’m just happy to be back and that I’m playing some really good tennis and can compete with the best of them,” said Haas, whose match against Dodig lasted two hours. “I’ll need to recover as quick as I can so I’m good for tomorrow. I couldn’t do that a year and a half ago.”

One half of the doubles semifinal bracket also was filled out Friday afternoon. Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau, the No. 1 doubles seed, defeated Xavier Malisse and Frank Moser 6-0, 6-4. Mirnyi and Tecau will face No. 4 seed Johan Brunstrom and Raven Klaasen in one semifinal Saturday. Brunstrom and Klaasen defeated Jaroslav Levinsky and Yen-Hsun Lu 7-5, 6-1. Dustin Brown and Christopher Kas also advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 3-6, 10-5 win against German countrymen Andre Begemann and Martin Emmrich.

Friday night’s quarterfinal matches will feature No. 1 seed John Isner against No. 6 seed and defending ITC champion Kevin Anderson in the nightcap, preceeded by the Edouard Roger-Vasselin/Ricardas Berankis match.

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