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Top Seed Fish To Meet Russian Qualifier Korolev In Final

Delray Beach, U.S.A.

Evgeny Korolev advanced to his first ATP World Tour final.© CameraSportEvgeny Korolev advanced to his first ATP World Tour final.

Top seed Mardy Fish advanced to his second ATP World Tour final in three weeks as he ousted No. 7 seed Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-1, in the semi-finals of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships on Saturday night.

The 27-year-old American, who was runner-up in San Jose on Feb. 15 (l. to Stepanek), will attempt to become the first No. 1 seed to win the singles title in the tournament's 17-year history. Top seeds are 0-5 in finals, including the past two years. Fish is trying to become the first American winner in Delray Beach since 2003 when Jan-Michael Gambill defeated Fish in his first ATP World Tour final.

Fish will look to earn his third career ATP World Tour title in his 13th final. His titles have come in Stockholm in 2003 and Houston in 2006.

Fish trailed 1-3 in the opening set and was down a break point before holding serve. He then broke Chardy in the sixth and 10th games. Fish won 11 of the last 13 games to wrap up the one hour and 17-minute match.

"I thought I played one of the better matches of the year for sure and that kid could play, there's no doubt about that," said Fish, who has not dropped a set en route to the final. "I definitely had to bring it today and I'm certainly happy about that."

Fish will face Russian qualifier Evgeny Korolev (pictured) who advanced to his first ATP World Tour final with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Belgian Christophe Rochus.

The 21-year-old Moscow native took control early by breaking Rochus three times in the opening set. In the second set Korolev broke for a 4-2 lead and served for the match at 5-3, 30-0 but then lost nine straight points. Korolev regrouped and then broke Rochus with a forehand winner on match point.

Korolev is the first Russian to reach the final in the tournament's 17-year history and he's trying to become the second straight qualifier to win the title. Last year Japanese teenager Kei Nishikori defeated top seed James Blake in the final as a qualifier.

"I am very happy to reach my first ATP World Tour final, finally," said Korolev, who is trying to become the first first-time ATP winner in 2009. "I've had a great week so far and everything has been going really well. The final is going to be very tough and I am going to try my best."

Korolev is the first Russian to reach an ATP World Tour singles final this year and he will take on the winner of top seed Mardy Fish and No. 7 seed Jeremy Chardy.

Korolev won 62 per cent of service points compared to the Belgian's 48 per cent. Korolev converted six of 14 break points and saved one of three break points on his serve in the one hour and 20 minute match.

The young Russian came into the tournament No. 105 in the South African Airways 2009 Rankings with a 2-3 match record on the season but he says playing the extra matches has helped him. "To play through the qualifying is tough and it gave me more confidence going into the main draw," said Korolev.


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Aaron M. Sprecher


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