Third seeded doubles pair Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares defeat second seeds to make final
In a thrilling day of semifinals action, top seeded Spaniard David Ferrer suffered a shock elimination from the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur 2012 at the hands of Frenchman Julien Benneteau, losing 6-4, 6-1 to the circuit veteran here at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.
Earlier, second seed Argentinean Juan Monaco had staged a dramatic come back late in the third set to beat third seeded Japanese Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(4) in an epic two hour and 42 minute battle to book his fifth ATP final appearance of the season.
Also a losing semifinalist two years ago, the world No. 5 Ferrer did not quite hit top form as he went down to the 30-year-old Benneteau, who has never won an ATP title before and will make only his seventh career ATP final appearance tomorrow.
Benneteau, playing in Kuala Lumpur for the first time, used his powerful forehand to great effect as he aggressively took his chances against the top ten player, winning five of the six break points he had, compared to Ferrer winning only two out of the 12 break opportunities he had.
At 5-0 down in the second set, Ferrer finally held serve for the first time in the third set to spare his own blushes of a possible bagel. In an intense end to the match, Benneteau saved three break points and failed to convert four match points in the seventh and final game before finally securing victory to rapturous applause.
“It’s difficult to win him but I knew I had a chance because I have won him before. Especially on this surface which is better for me compared to him,” said the world No. 34.
Often regarded as the best player on tour to have never won a title, Benneteau has played 198 career ATP tournaments without emerging champion and faces second seed Juan Monaco tomorrow, whom he has never met on court.
“It’s 50/50 tomorrow. He’s a solid consistent player and he broke the top ten this year. I will just play the same as I have all week and we will see tomorrow,” he added of his chances.
Ferrer conceded that his opponent had the better game today.
“He had a very good match and played better than me. I had my chance in the first set, but didn’t take my chances to break him, and in the important points, he made the winners. I am a little bit sad but I’ll focus on what’s next,” said the second seed, who plays in Beijing next week.
In one of the most pulsating and unpredictable semifinal encounters ever witnessed in the Malaysian Open, world No. 11 Monaco staged an astonishing late fight back to overcome Asian number one Nishikori in the longest match of the tournament so far.
The first set started off in Monaco’s favour as he broke the Asian number one immediately in the first game. Nishikori seemed to be struggling with a foot problem and after receiving treatment at the end of the first set, he got back up to play the second much to the delight of a healthy crowd in the Putra Stadium.
In the third game of the second set, the plucky 22-year-old Japanese saved three break points before breaking Monaco in the fourth for a 3-1 lead. Monaco broke back in the fifth, but in a passionate sixth game, Nishikori broke again for a 4-2 lead as Monaco lost riveting rallies through mistakes and screamed out loud as he lost his cool.
Buoyed with confidence and with the 28-year-old Argentinean’s back against the wall, the Asian number one closed out the second set easily and raced to a 5-2 lead in the pulsating decider.
Displaying the true mental strength of a champion, the clay specialist Monaco, playing his first indoor tournament of the year, came back against the tide of play to force the set into a tie-break, the first third set tie-break of the tournament.
Nishikori sealed his fate early in the tie-break with three forehand errors to gift Monaco a 3-0 lead and eventually the match.
“It was a very difficult match. I played better in the first set, he played better than me in the second and in the third set, as you can see, it was up and down. He held match point once but I fought back. It was a great game. I think the crowd really enjoyed it,” said Monaco, who will be chasing his fourth season title and possible entry into the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
When asked what went through his head when he was 5-2 down in the decider, the Argentinean replied: “You never know what’s going to happen. I just fought for every ball to try and stay in the match. Once I got some rhythm, I started to play better.”
Meanwhile, Nishikori was gracious in defeat.
“He just played well I think. I don’t think I played bad. I had match point, but he came back strongly and he was more aggressive than me in the last couple of games. I don’t know why I had pain (at the end of the first set) but I think but my ankle and calf was tired and hurting. In the third set, it was okay,” said the Japanese star, who pledged to come back next year should there be no scheduling conflicts.
“I like to play here and they always treat me well. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of Japanese fans are here and a lot of people watching,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the only doubles semifinals match played late today, third seeded Austrian-Brazilian pair Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares pulled off a little bit of an upset when they beat the second seeds Daniele Bracciali of Italy and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 7-6(6), 6-1 in one hour and 24 minutes.
The duo will meet in-form Great Britain pair Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins in tomorrow’s final, who knocked the doubles top seeds out of the tournament yesterday.
The doubles finals will be played at 2.15pm on Centre Court, while the singles will get underway after the match, but not before 4.30pm.
The tournament is supported by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia and Tourism Malaysia and sponsors that include Rado, CNN International, the DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur, Wilson, 100 Plus, the Albukhary Foundation, Astro and the ATP World Tour’s Premier Partner Corona. The event is sanctioned by the Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia.
Tickets can be purchased by visiting the official website, www.MalaysianOpenTennis.com.