Gasquet Favorite in Mumbai Semifinals

Posted on September 29, 2007

Only one of the Top 4 seeds has earned his projected semifinal berth, but can he hold off one of his childhood heroes? Four becomes two on Semifinal Saturday at the Kingfisher Airlines Tennis Open in Mumbai.

The first singles semifinal of the day pits No. 8 seed Olivier Rochus against unseeded Rainer Schuettler.

Both players are making their Mumbai debuts this year, and Schuettler has had to take out two seeds en route to the semis, No. 7 seed Julien Benneteau in the first round and No. 2 seed Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals. Curiously, the only set the German lost in his first three rounds came in his only match against an unseeded player, beating Viktor Troicki in the second round. Rochus hasnít had to face a seeded player but did take on dangerous wild card Nicolas Kiefer in the quarterfinals, winning when the German retired with gastroenteritis.

Both players are contesting their first ATP semifinals of the season. Rochus broke a quarterfinal curse with his retirement win over Kiefer, having fallen in all three of his previous quarterfinal matches this year, including at the International Series Gold event in Dubai (falling to Tommy Haas). Schuettler hadnít reached a quarterfinal this year prior to this week, and in fact had only won two ATP matches this year coming in (not back-to-back). The last time Rochus reached an ATP semifinal was at Munich last May (where he earned his second career ATP singles title) while the last time Schuettler made one was at Dubai last February (falling to Rafael Nadal).

Saturdayís second singles semifinal pits No. 1 seed Richard Gasquet against No. 5 seed Fabrice Santoro.

Both players are making their Mumbai debuts this year, and Gasquet has been in devastating form, dropping a total of just 10 games through his first three matches, his most difficult being a 6-2 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Stefan Koubek in the quarterfinals. Santoro dropped one set in the second round against Nicolas Devilder but enjoyed a similarly-routine win in his quarterfinal, beating No. 5 seed Jarkko Nieminen in straights, 6-3, 6-4.

Gasquet will be playing his fourth semifinal of the year; he is 1-2 in his first three, reaching his eighth career ATP singles final at Estoril (finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic) and falling in the semifinals of Sydney and Wimbledon (his first time to reach the quarterfinals or better at a Grand Slam). Santoro is playing his second semifinal of the year, having won his fifth career ATP singles title on the grass courts of Newport this summer.

Gasquet has had a breakthrough year, making his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and subsequently breaking into the Top 10 for the first time, spending five weeks amongst the gameís elite before dropping out. He is playing his first event since withdrawing from his second round match at the US Open with a viral illness.

Santoro is 1-4 against the Top 20 this season, his lone win coming against then-No. 7 Tommy Robredo in the first round at Dubai. He has had losses to Nikolay Davydenko (Australian Open), Ivan Ljubicic (AMS Miami) Tomas Berdych (Halle) and James Blake (at the US Open in a five set thriller).

In the doubles semifinals, the only seeds remaining, No. 3 seeds Robert Lindstedt and Jarkko Nieminen, take on unseeded Serbian duo Boris Pashanski and Viktor Troicki, while two more unseeded duos, namely Lars Burgsmuller and Olivier Rochus and Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, also do battle. (ATP Digital Services)