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Sunrise: Karlovic retires, Monfils vs. Seppi in Final
March 17, 2007

Twists and turns in today's semi-final matches at the BMWTC, as one singles match ends in retirement and the tournament's 6 th seed fades in the other.

On a brilliant sunny afternoon, the crowd settled in to watch a match that promised power, speed and charisma - two tall, lanky players who cover a lot of court, and play with intense passion. In fact, the battle between young French star Gael Monfils and the big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic was physical from the start.

The first set was tight, going to a tiebreaker with no breaks of serve. Monfils knew the big-serving Karlovic would be trouble if he got behind - and in fact Karlovic was able to string together five straight points to win it 7-6(4). In all, Karlovic cranked nine aces in the first set.

“I made a double fault in the tie break, so against Ivo, it's like set point for him,” Monfils said. “I think I play good the first points, and good serve - so the key was the double fault.”

In the second set, at two games all - Monfils slammed backwards into the scoreboard going for a ball. He made the point, but afterward was limping a little. While most eyes were on Monfils and his encounter with the board, Karlovic had apparently turned his foot over during the same point, resulting in a slight sprain. At 15-30, during his next service game, the Croatian called for a trainer. Karlovic's right foot was re-taped from arch to ankle - but afterward his footwork looked tentative. He lost the next game, missing an overhead on game point to hand Monfils the first service break of the match. Next game, Monfils held serve at love - and Karlovic threw in the towel.



“I hope his injury is not too serious,” Monfils said graciously after the match, “...because he's a great guy and he was playing good, so I'm lucky today.

The ATP trainer said Karlovic got an x-ray just to make sure the injury wasn't too serious - but he should probably be good to go in Miami next week.

Monfils knows there are a lot of expectations about his own future - not only his results at this week's BMWTC, but his impact upon the sport of tennis. Named ATP Player of the Year in 2005, he c limbed 200 spots in the ATP Rankings that year to finish as the No. 3 Frenchman (behind Richard Gasquet and Sebastien Grosjean); reaching the 4th round at the Masters Series in Miami and the 3rd round at Wimbledon. In 2006 he beat Andy Roddick at Rome and got to the fourth round of the French Open. Plus - Monfils has become a fan favorite for his emotional outbursts on the court, and his extremely physical playing style. The 20-year-old says it is sometimes difficult to ignore all the hype.

“Sometimes a little bit, but you know I think I grow like this and the first thing is to stay natural and if people like me, I really love it, so for sure I am happy - but whether I lose, or I win. I know I have pressure on my back because for France but anyway it's a sport and you have to enjoy your sport, and I love this game so it's okay, I can support the pressure.”

If the down side is intense public scrutiny - Monfils says the up side is, sometimes his fans help amp him up during a tough match. “Yeah, it help me a lot sometime when I am a little bit down in my head and see all these people you know say come on come on, tell me come on, you have to do it - so they give me a lot of energy.”

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Monfils plays another young gun in Sunday's final - Italian Andreas Seppi, who pulled out a three set win over a determined Nicolas Massu.

Ranked 102 to Massu's No. 50, Seppi took on the tournament's No. 6 seed with consistency and style. The match started with the court in half-sun, half-shade, which Seppi said made the first few games difficult. He lost that set 3-6, but the second game of the second set, which went to a half-dozen deuces, marked a momentum shift - as Seppi broke the Chilean's serve for the first time.

“It was one of the important games in the match,” Seppi said, “...because I was a break down, and then to come back immediately was good for me for confidence. Otherwise a set down and break down, it's always tough so it was pretty good to [win] this long game.”

In the third set, Seppi was an excellent retriever, getting lots of balls back while Massu seemed to melt down - going for winners and missing. “Third set I started really good,” Seppi said. “I don't know maybe he was thinking a little bit about the second, because he made some double faults in the second game, and third game, so I had a good start in the third. When I'm confident I can play pretty good. When I had the chance I went for the winner. It works pretty good and then in the long rallies it's tough against [Massu] because he's running a lot, so you have to keep the points short and maybe sometimes that was the key of the game. I'm pretty patient, but when I have the chance I try to go for the winner so I think both a little bit patient and a little bit risk.”

Seppi also produced winners with crafty drop shots, which Massu wasn't often able to track down. “In the long rallies he's staying pretty far from the baseline, so to make sometimes a drop shot it's good to change the position of the player,” Seppi said. “After winning the second set I was more confident, I knew that maybe if I go up like 3-zero he's going to go a little bit crazy or something - so I tried to be focused the first games and it worked out good.” In fact, Seppi went up 5-0 in the third, before Massu rallied to hold serve.



Looking to tomorrow's final against Gael Monfils, Seppi said “It will be a tough match, it's always a touch match. I played him once in the beginning of this year and I lost, so I hope to play better tomorrow. It's important to be focused on my own game, to serve well, to keep him moving and when I have a shot try to go for a winner, but try to stay focused on my game and not think too much about what he's doing.”

The two played earlier this year in Doha - a match Seppi lost 6-3, 6-4. “It's a good rematch for me,” he said, “and I'm playing better than in the beginning so I hope to stay focused tomorrow, get ready a little bit and for sure it will be a nice final.”

DOUBLES SEMI-FINALS:

Del Potro/Prieto d. Friedl/Zib 6-2, 7-5

A break in the fourth game of the first set in addition to the seventh game set the tone for this match. Juan Martin Del Potro was dominant off both wings with passing shots to the left, right, and overhead. Friedl and Zib logged three aces while Del Potro and Prieto logged two. In the eleventh game of the second set, the Del Potro/Prieto team broke once again and closed the match out 7-5. With 17 winners for the Del Potro/Prieto Team, and 9 winners for the Friedl/Zib team, it was not enough to equalize this lopsided match.

K. Economides (GRE)/K. Vliegen (BEL) d. S. Koubek (AUT)/O. March (AUT) 3-6, 6-3, 11-9.

Two sets and a tiebreak, down to the wire - this semifinals doubles match went to Freshman. Economides from Greece and Vliegen from Belgium made a fantastic pairing this week at the BMW Tennis Championships. The younger team accounted for 70 percent of first serves won, and 51 percent of the total points one. A one sided affair it was not, however. When it came down to it, the Young guns had the mettle to close it out 11-9 in the tiebreak.

Results for Saturday, March 17, 2007:

Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)/Sebastian Prieto (ARG) d. Leos Friedl (CZE)/Tomas Zib (CZE) 6-2, 7-5
Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 6-7, 4-2 (ret)
Andreas Seppi (ITA) d. Nicolas Massu (CHI) 3-6, 7-5, 6-1
Konstantinos Economidis (GRE)/Kristof Vliegen (BEL) d. Stefan Koubek (AUT)/Oliver Marach (AUT) 3-6, 6-3, 11-9