Top Seed Verdasco Nears Title in Umag

Posted on July 19, 2008

Semifinal Saturday at the Umag ATP Studena Croatia Open, a 326,000 ATP International Series tournament contested on clay courts, features top seed Fernando Verdasco against No. 7 seed Fabio Fognini and No. 4 seed Igor Andreev against first-time ATP semifinalist Maximo Gonzalez.

In the first semifinal match on centre court, top seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain faces seventh-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini for the first time. Both players are making their first tournament appearance.

Verdasco, 24, can notch his 30th match win of the season (currently 29-17; 15-8 on clay) by defeating Fognini. Following a first-round bye, he defeated French qualifier Mathieu Montcourt and German Mischa Zverev in straight sets this week. The Spaniard stands at No. 15 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, just two places below his career-high mark of No. 13, achieved on July 7 this year, and is on course to break his career-best record of 35-28, set in 2005. Verdasco has now advanced to the semifinals or better in three of his last four main draw appearances; he reached his first career grass-court final last month in Nottingham (l. to Karlovic), and the Bastad semifinals last week (l. to Berdych). His other season highlights include the quarterfinals at Valencia (l. to Ferrer) and Masters Series Hamburg (l. to Federer), and Grand Slam-best fourth round finishes at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal) and Wimbledon (l. to Ancic). Verdasco is looking to reach his sixth career ATP final (1-4 record). He won his sole title in 2004 at Valencia (d. Montanes) and is 79-54 lifetime on clay.

Fognini, 21, reached his third career ATP semifinal with straight-sets wins over Lithuanian wild card Ricardas Berankis, two-time finalist Filippo Volandri and five-time champion and No. 3 seed Carlos Moya. His best results have all come on clay, in reaching the semifinals at Costa do Sauipe (l. to Almagro) and Warsaw (l. to Davydenko) and the quarterfinals at Vina del Mar (l. to Ventura). Earlier this month, the Italian also won the clay-court Challenger title at Turin (d. Junquiera). Fognini reached a career-high No. 71 ranking on April 14 (currently No. 73), and has a career-best 13-10 season mark (12-6 on clay) going into the semifinals.

In the other semifinal, fourth-seeded Russian Igor Andreev and Argentine Maximo Gonzalez also face off in a first career meeting.

Andreev, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Monday, is bidding to reach his second straight ATP final following a runner-up finish last week in Gstaad (l. to Hanescu). It was his eighth final appearance overall (3-5 record) and his first since January 2006 at Sydney (l. to Blake). The World No. 30 has a 27-20 season record (18-12 on clay), with other highlights including quarterfinal appearances at Buenos Aires (l. to Acasuso), Dubai (l. to Djokovic) and ATP Masters Series events in Miami (l. to Berdych) and Monte-Carlo (l. to Davydenko). He reached the semifinals this week with wins over Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Argentine No. 6 seed Guillermo Canas. In his only other Umag appearance, Andreev lost in the first round in 2004 (l. to Zib). He has an 80-56 career record on clay.

Gonzalez, who turns 25 on Sunday, posted wins over Swedish qualifier Filip Prpic and consecutive Croats, No. 2 Ivo Karlovic and Roko Karanusic, en route to his first career ATP semifinal. The Argentine is playing in his sixth career ATP-level tournament, and prior to this week, had won just one match in defeating Karanusic in the first round at Roland Garros. He made his ATP debut last year as a qualifier at Umag (l. to Berlocq). Gonzalez entered the tournament at a career-high No. 101 ranking after winning the Challenger title at San Benedetto earlier this month (d. Junquiera). He also reached the Challenger final at Sam Remo in May (l. to Junquiera). (ATP Digital Services)