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Almagro Battles Into Acapulco QFs

Acapulco, Mexico

Leonardo Mayer Alfredo EstrellaLeonardo Mayer in Acapulco

Fourth-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro stayed on track for the title defence at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, surviving a second-round scare against Italian Potito Starace 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 6-3 on Wednesday in Acapulco. Almagro earned the only break of serve in the third set to go up 4-2 and went on to close out the match in two hours and 34 minutes.

"It was a tough match," said Almagro. "I played a good first set and a better tie-break than him. In the second set I couldn't take advantage of the early break I had in the second set. I'm still not playing as good as last year but am getting better each match."

World No. 21 Almagro advances to the quarter-finals at the ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament for the third straight year. He claimed the title in 2008 by defeating Argentine David Nalbandian in the final. The 23 year old is also through to the quarter-finals for the third time this season, having reaching this stage at Auckland (l. to Querrey) and Costa do Sauipe (l. to Gil).

The 2008 clay-court match wins leader will next face countryman Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who knocked out sixth-seeded Spaniard Albert Montanes 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in one hour and 50 minutes. Gimeno-Traver, currently ranked No. 89, reached his maiden ATP World Tour quarter-final last May at Portschach (l. to Ljubicic).

"Gimeno and Montanes are two good friends of mine, and two very good players on clay," said Almagro.

Two other seeded Spaniards also fell in the second round, including No. 8 seed and two-time Acapulco champion Carlos Moya. The 32 year old failed to convert his four break point opportunities against Argentine Leonardo Mayer (pictured above), who went on to reach his first ATP World Tour quarter-final with a 6-4, 7-5 victory. The 21-year-old Mayer is making his third appearance in a tour-level event, and is currently ranked No. 110 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings.

Meanwhile, Martin Vassallo Arguello reached the final eight at an ATP World Tour event for the first time since August 2007 at Sopot by ousting No. 7 seed Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 40 minutes. The 64th-ranked Vassallo Arguello had saved two match points in his first-round match against Spaniard Ivan Navarro before prevailing in a third-set tie-break.

Third-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo had no problems in his second-round match, cruising to the 6-2, 6-0 win over American Kevin Kim. Robredo won all but four points on serve and broke his opponent five times to win his 12th straight match on the ATP World Tour.

The World No. 15 has now reached the quarter-finals in each stop of the Latin America clay circuit, including the title wins the past two weeks at Costa do Sauipe and Buenos Aires. He currently leads the circuit with a 14-1 season record on clay, his only loss coming in the Vina del Mar semi-finals against Argentine Jose Acasuso.

Robredo and Acasuso will face off for the fourth successive week after the fifth-seeded Argentine dismissed two-time Acapulco winner and countryman Juan Ignacio Chela 7-5, 6-3. Robredo took the 5-3 lead in the head-to-head series against Acasuso after prevailing in the semi-finals at Costa do Sauipe and Buenos Aires.

Following two tightly contested sets against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, No. 2 seed Gael Monfils raced out to a 5-0 lead in the third set before proceeding to close out the match on serve 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-1.

The 22-year-old Frenchman, who broke into the Top 10 of the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, has enjoyed a strong start to the 2009 ATP World Tour season, reaching the semi-finals at Doha and Rotterdam and the fourth round at the Australian Open. He is playing on clay for the first time since reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals last June (l. to Federer).

Monfils will next come up against Austrian qualifier Daniel Koellerer, who went the distance in a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4) victory over Spaniard Alberto Martin. Koellerer upset top seed David Nalbandian in first-round action Tuesday.


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© Erika Tanaka


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