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Wildcard Monfils has last laugh, into Open semis

Published: 1:52PM Thursday January 10, 2013 Source: ONE Sport

Enigmatic French wildcard Gael Monfils has indeed proved himself the joker of the Heineken Open pack, crashing tomorrow's semi-final party with a spectacular three-set victory over German veteran Tommy Haas.

The brilliantly talented Monfils took just over two hours to dispatch the third seed with a display that swayed wildly between the sublime and ridiculous, and surely left his rival in disbelief.

Once as high as No 7 in the world, a knee injury caused his ranking to plummet as far as 99 last year and Monfils needed a special favour from tournament organiser Karl Budge to enter at Auckland.

But that dispensation seems a masterstroke now, as he now faces three-time champion and top seed David Ferrer in tomorrows semis.

Monfils seemed almost disinterested through the opening set, almost losing his opening serve and dropping his second to present his rival the early advantage.

He broke Haas' service to go 3-1 up in the second, then held his next serve for 4-1. Emotions flowed on both sides of the net - the German received a time violation warning and then another caution for alleged use of abusive language, which he disputed vehemently with the umpire.

Haas won his next service game when Monfils skied his return high and then bent over to his adjust his shoelace, while his counterpart smashed away the inevitable winner.    

But then Haas went on a four-game run and Monfils was forced to produce more magic to eventually snatch the set, 7-5.

It remained to be seen how the Frenchman's conditioning would hold after his long lay-off, but instead, Haas - the 2012 ATP Tour Comeback Player of the Year - was the one to crumble in the third set.

"It was incredible, after a long period without playing, to just try my best and compete," said Monfils afterwards. "Obviously, it's good.

"I'm a fighter, I don't stop. When I get in a tough match, even when I'm losing, I try to enjoy it."

Ferrer has apparently never beaten, but Monfils was worried how his body would feel after three tough matches in as many days.

"I think I am really tired, I'm not sure, and David is in great form," he warned. "But I will try to have a nice recovery and do my best tomorrow."

Earlier, Ferrer issued an ominous warning to his remaining rivals, sweeping quarter-final opponent Lukas Lacko off centre court.

The Spaniard needed just 54 minutes to dispatch the plucky Slovak, ranked 48th in the world, 6-2 6-1, in business-like fashion.

Lacko had eliminated eighth seed Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil last night, but found the fifth-ranked Ferrer in another class again, unable to capitalise on his only opportunity to break serve and losing his own four times.

"It's never easy," insisted Ferrer afterwards. "But I played a really good game, better than yesterday, so I am very happy"

The favourite was all that convincing in the previous round and admitted he struggled with the speed of the court.

"I have a good feeling with my game and with my shots," he said. "Yesterday was a little surprising to me - the court was fast, but today, I feel better."

Ferrer now awaits the winner of tonight's feature match between third seed Tommy Haas of Germany and French wildcard Gael Monfils.

"I know I need to play my best tennis to get through to the final." 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the draw, German Philipp Kohlschreiber and American Sam Querrey booked their semi-final appointment with regulation wins.

Kohlschreiber looked in fine form, as he dispatched Belgian Xavier Malisse 7-6 6-4 to reach the final four in Auckland for the fourth time.

Malisse put up a strong fight early, as both players refused to be broken in the first set, with Kohlschreiber eventually coming through in a tie-breaker.

However, Kohlschreiber was able to break early in the second set and held on to see off the challenge of the world No 62.

Kohlschreiber will play the towering Querry, who used his massive serve to edge plucky Canadian qualifier Jesse Levine in straight sets.

Fourth-seeded Querry wasn't always convincing, but tossed down 14 aces - nine in the second set -with only one double fault against a rival he's meet several times during his career.

"We've been playing each other since we were 13 and it's close every time," said Querrey. "But I'm feeling great - the serve and forehand are feeling awesome, so I just want to keep it up.

"[Kohlschreiber] will be a tough one. He's playing really well, so I'm looking forward to it."


Heineken Open - Order of Play

Friday, January 11

Centre Court

From noon

1-Colin Fleming (Britain)/Bruno Soares (Brazil) v 3-Julian Knowle (Austria)/Filip Polasek (Slovakia)

4-Sam Querrey (US) v 2-Phillipp Kohlschreiber (Germany)

1-David Ferrer (Spain) v WC-Gael Monfils (France)

Johan Brunstrom (Sweden)/Frederik Nielsen (Denmark) v Frantisek Cermak (Czech Republic)/Michal Mertinak (Slovakia)