Djokovic Leads Three Seeds Into Vienna Quarters

Posted on October 12, 2007

Eight players will do battle for four semifinal berths on Friday at the Vienna International Series Gold Tennis event.

Third seed Ivan Ljubicic tries to keep his perfect record at this event going as he plays Andreas Seppi in the first match of the day. Having spent 83 straight weeks among the Top 10 (between November 7, 2005 and June 10, 2007), Ljubicic is spending his 18th straight week hovering just outside the elite, having fallen out after Roland Garros on June 11. But in Vienna he has been a perfect 12-0, going 5-0 to win the title in 2005, 5-0 to repeat last year and 2-0 en route to this yearís quarterfinals. A few other Vienna streaks have come to an end through his first two matches of the week, however; he lost his serve here for the first time in his first round match against qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer, then dropped a set for the first time in his second round match against Mardy Fish. He will try to improve to 13-0 here against Seppi, who is playing his 14th career ATP quarterfinal, having reached one in 2004, five in 2005, five in 2006 and now three so far this season (he is 4-9 in his first 13, reaching one final at Gstaad this year and three other semifinals). The Italian is 1-4 against Top 20 players this year, his win coming over Juan Carlos Ferrero in Kitzbuehel.

The only quarterfinal between non-seeds is next, as Feliciano Lopez faces Stanislas Wawrinka. Vienna has been a special venue for Lopez in the past; he has now reached the quarterfinals or better in all of his four appearances here, including winning his first (and so far only) ATP singles title here in 2004 (defeating Guillermo Canas in five sets in the final). This is his third straight week of competition since a fourth round run at the US Open, and after falling in the first round of Bangkok two weeks ago he has now reached two quarterfinals in a row, falling in this very round last week in Tokyo (to David Ferrer). After a shaky start to the year that saw him win only three matches in his first 11 events, Wawrinka had an excellent summer, making his third career ATP singles final at the International Series Gold stop in Stuttgart (falling to Rafael Nadal), notching his first Top 10 win of the year en route to the quarterfinals of New Haven (over Tommy Robredo) and reaching his first Grand Slam fourth round at the US Open. He was a quarterfinalist here a year ago (beating Novak Djokovic en route). Both players have gone to three sets twice already this week.

The only quarterfinal between seeds, top seed Novak Djokovic against No. 7 seed Juan Ignacio Chela, is next. Djokovic has had a breakthrough year, earning the No. 3 ranking on the strength of reaching the quarters or better at 13 stops now; among those runs are his first ATP Masters Series shields at Miami and Montreal and his first Grand Slam final at the US Open. He is the only player to have wins over both men that precede him in the ATP Rankings, namely World No. 1 Roger Federer and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal. After a pair of routine wins against lucky losers to kick off his BA-CA Tennis Trophy campaign this week, the Serb faces a much higher class of opponent in Chela.

After falling outside the Top 20 in October 2004, Chela broke back into the elite after Roland Garros in June and has spent 15 of the 18 weeks since inside; this resurgence is all thanks to an incredibly consistent season, which has seen him reach the quarterfinals or better nine times coming in (10 now), including winning his fourth ATP singles title (Acapulco) and most recently reaching his second Grand Slam quarterfinal (at the US Open). Now playing the quarters here for the first time in four tries, he hopes to draw from his 16 career wins over Top 10 players (16-39 overall).

In the last quarterfinal, No. 2 seed Fernando Gonzalez takes on an unseeded Juan Carlos Ferrero. After a strong first half of the year - highlighted by runner-up finishes at the Australian Open (his first major final) and Rome (his second ATP Masters Series final), Gonzalez cooled off in the summer hardcourt season, going 0-4 (culminating in a first round loss at the US Open). But he made a successful fall debut in Beijing, winning his eighth ATP singles title (beating Ivan Ljubicic and Tommy Robredo back-to-back in the semis and final there). He has played well here in the past, too, finishing runner-up last year (falling to Ljubicic). Ferrero surprised No. 5 seed Guillermo Canas in a marathon three-setter on Tuesday, his first win over the Argentine in three tries this year; after a second round win over Julien Benneteau he is now playing in his sixth quarterfinal of the year, and his second lifetime in Vienna, having gotten all the way to the final here two years back (falling to Ljubicic). In the pairís only prior 2007 meeting in the second round in Cincinnati, Ferrero battled back from 2-0 down in the second set and 3-1 down in the tie-break to prevail, 6-2, 7-6(7). (ATP Digital Services)