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Youzhny Edges Mathieu To Reach SF; Berdych Outlasts Hewitt

Munich, Germany

Mikhail Youzhny© Matthias HuberMikhail Youzhny advances to his first semi-final of the season.

ATP World Tour No. 64 Mikhail Youzhny reached his first semi-final of the season after knocking out No. 7 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 on Friday at the BMW Open by FWU AG, an ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in Munich, Germany.

A strong serving display from Youzhny saw him fire 10 aces and win 79 per cent of points behind his first serve. The Russian converted two of four break point chances, while saving four of the five he faced, to close out his fourth successive victory over the Frenchman after two hours and 17 minutes.

The 26-year-old Youzhny is through to the Munich semi-finals for the second time. He reached the last four on his debut in 2002 (l. to El Aynaoui in third-set tie-break) and made the final in 2007 when he lost to doubles partner Philipp Kohlschreiber. He improved to a 12-10 match record on the season, highlighted up till now by quarter-final showings at Rotterdam (l. to Ancic) and Marseille (l. to Llodra). 

The No. 39-ranked Mathieu slipped to a 13-12 match record after failing to reach his second semi-final of the season. The 27 year old was bidding to reach his second straight semi-final in Munich after losing to Simone Bolelli in a third-set tie-break last season.

Youzhny next will face German wild card Daniel Brands, who advanced when Potito Starace of Italy retired with a right hamstring injury trailing 4-6, 1-1. World No. 141 Brands is through to his first ATP World Tour semi-final and is bidding to become the second German finalist in three years after Philipp Kohlschreiber won his maiden title in Munich in 2007.

Prior to his success this week in Munich, Brands had played entirely on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2009 and compiled a 9-11 match record – highlighted by a semi-final showing in Athens. His first-round victory over Stefan Koubek was his first win on the ATP World Tour since Kitzbuhel last summer.

No. 95-ranked Starace was contesting his first ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season and dropped to a 9-13 match record. The 27-year-old Italian had enjoyed victories over No. 8 seed Igor Kunitsyn and 2008 runner-up Simone Bolelli on his debut in Munich.

Fourth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych overcame stiff resistance in Lleyton Hewitt before prevailing 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) against the Australian wild card. Breaks of serve were exchanged three times before Berdych edged out his second victory over Hewitt (2-0) in the deciding tie-break after two hours and 18 minutes.

"It was a great match. Every match with him is so tough, he's a great fighter - fighting till the last point," commented Berdych. "A semi-final is always good, I'll have some confidence so I'm just going to go there and enjoy it and try my best and maybe go to the final."

Former World No. 1 Hewitt saved two match points in a dramatic first-round win over Philipp Petzschner that saw him record his 500th tour-level victory. The 28 year old made his debut in Munich this week and was contesting his fourth ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season. He slipped to a 15-10 match record, highlighted by capturing his 27th tour-level title at Houston (d. Odesnik) last month.

"It was really close, I had a lot of chances and led an early break in the third (set) then went down a break and fought back," assessed Hewitt. "In the end it could have gone either way. He played a really clean tie-break, he made a lot of first serves and it was hard to get a cheap point off him."

Berdych, currently No. 28 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, is through to his first ATP World Tour semi-final since capturing his fourth title in Tokyo (d. del Potro) in October last year and improved to a 12-10 match record on the season. The Czech No. 2 (behind No. No. 17 Stepanek) was also a semi-finalist in Munich two years ago when he lost to Youzhny.

For a place in his ninth ATP World Tour final, Berdych will face Frenchman Jeremy Chardy who battled past second seed Marin Cilic 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. Chardy withstood nine aces from Cilic’s racquet to break serve twice from six opportunities and defeat the Croatian in one hour and 58 minutes.

World No. 15 Cilic also suffered a quarter-final exit (l. to Mathieu) on his Munich debut last year. The 20 year old has made a strong start to the season and compiled a 23-7 match record. He titled in two of his first three tournaments at Chennai (d. Devvarman) and Zagreb (d. Ancic) and was a quarter-finalist in Dubai (l. to Djokovic).

The 22-year-old Chardy reached his maiden ATP World Tour final in Johannesburg in February, when he finished runner-up to French compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The right-hander is currently a career-high No. 40 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings after also reaching the semi-finals in Delray Beach (l. to Fish) and the quarter-finals in Sydney (l. to Gasquet).

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