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Saturday Briefing - Hamburg, Atlanta

Verdasco© German Tennis ChampionshipsFernando Verdasco is trying to reach his third ATP World Tour final of the season.

HAMBURG SATURDAY PREVIEW –  SIMON-YOUZHNY, COUNTRYMEN ALMAGRO-VERDASCO MEET IN SEMIS
The semi-finals on Saturday at bet-at-home Open German Tennis Championships 2011 feature three of the top five seeds. It is the first time since 1981 in Hamburg the semi-finalists are all seeded among the top eight.

In the opening match on Centre Court, No. 5 seed Gilles Simon of France meets No. 4 seed and top Russian Mikhail Youzhny, who owns a 7-1 head-to-head mark. Simon won the last meeting in the first round of Dubai in late February. This will be their first meeting on clay. In January, Simon captured his eighth career ATP World Tour title in Sydney (d. Troicki) and this is the Frenchman’s first semi-final since then. It’s also his first semi-final showing in Hamburg.  Youzhny, who is trying to reach his first ATP World Tour final of the season, is also making his first semi-final appearance in his ninth trip to Hamburg.

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In the second semi-final, No. 3 seed Nicolas Almagro takes on Spanish countryman No. 8 seed Fernando Verdasco, who has won three of the previous four meetings, all on clay. In their last meeting at Roland Garros in 2010, Almagro prevailed in four sets in the fourth round. Almagro leads the ATP World Tour with a 29-7 clay court record (most wins) and he has captured a personal-best three titles. Verdasco is trying to reach his third ATP World Tour final of the season. He was runner-up in San Jose (l. to Raonic) in February and Estoril (l. to del Potro) in May. Both players are appearing in their first semi-final in Hamburg.

2011 ATP WORLD TOUR TITLE LEADERS – Almagro is tied for third-most this year with three ATP World Tour titles:    No.
1) Novak Djokovic   8
2) Robin Soderling   4
3) Nicolas Almagro   3
Rafael Nadal   3
5) David Ferrer, del Potro  2

SATURDAY SEMI-FINAL FED-EX HEAD 2 HEADS – In Order of Play

(5) Gilles Simon (FRA) vs (4) Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) Youzhny Leads 7-1
07 Wimbledon (Great Britain) Grass R64 Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 4-6 3-6 7-5 6-4
08 ATP Masters Series Indian Wells Hard R64 Mikhail Youzhny 7-5 6-4
09 London / Queen's Club (Great Britain)Grass R16 Mikhail Youzhny 6-1 2-6   6-2
09 Tokyo (Japan) Hard R16 Mikhail Youzhny 7-6(5)6-7(5) 6-4
09 Valencia (Spain) Hard QF Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 6-4
10 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Toronto Hard R64 Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 6-4
11 Marseille (France) Hard R16 Mikhail Youzhny 3-6 6-3 6-3
11 Dubai (U.A.E.) Hard R32 Gilles Simon 6-3 7-5

Simon FastFacts:
2011 Highlights:
W: Sydney (d Troicki); QF: Dubai (l Gasquet); ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami (l Federer); Casablanca (l Starace); Estoril (l Raonic)
YTD W-L: 28-17 (13-8 on clay)
YTD Titles: 1
Career Titles: 8
Date of Birth: December 27, 1984
South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking: 18

* Simon, 26, has a 7-5 career mark in Hamburg and he's appearing in his first semi-final...His previous best result was the third round in his 2006 debut (d. No. 9 Gaudio, l. to Mirnyi)...Has won 17 of 36 return games (47%) this week
* The No. 4 Frenchman (behind No. 7 Monfils, No. 11 Gasquet, No. 15 Tsonga) has improved his ranking from No. 44 at the end of last season to No. 18 coming in this week…Has a 28-17 match record (13-8 on clay) and has already surpassed last year’s mark of 23-17
* He posted his second Top 10 win of the season (2-6 this year) over countryman No. 7 Monfils on Friday…He also beat No. 10 Fish in 3rd Rd. at Roland Garros
* In January, he captured his eighth career ATP World Tour title in Sydney (d. Troicki) and he’s been to the quarter-finals in five other tournaments, including this week…This is third on clay (Casablanca, Estoril)
* Has an 8-2 career mark in ATP World Tour finals (3-1 on clay) and his last clay title came in ’08 Bucharest

Youzhny FastFacts:
2011 Highlights:
SF: Marseille (l Cilic); QF: Rotterdam (l Soderling)
YTD W-L: 18-14 (8-8 on clay)
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 7
Date of Birth: June 25, 1982
South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking: 17

* Youzhny, 29, is appearing in his first semi-final in Hamburg…His previous best was the quarters in 2004 (l. to Ljubicic…He is playing here for the ninth time in 10 years (except last year) and comes in with 9-8 record
* He is No. 3 in the tournament in service games won (33 of 37 held, 89%)
* This is his first ATP World Tour semi-final since February when he advanced to the semis in Marseille (l. to Cilic)…The week before he reached the quarters in Rotterdam (l. to Soderling)
* Has an 18-14 match record on the season (8-8 on clay)
* He is 7-10 lifetime in ATP World Tour finals (2-2 on clay) and both of his clay titles came on German soil, in Stuttgart in 2002 and Munich last year

(3) Nicolas Almagro (ESP) vs (8) Fernando Verdasco (ESP) Verdasco Leads 3-1
05 Stuttgart (Germany) Clay R64 Fernando Verdasco 7-6(4) 6-0
07 Kitzbuhel (Austria) Clay R16 Fernando Verdasco 6-2 7-6(6)
09 Roland Garros (France) Clay R32 Fernando Verdasco 6-2 7-6(4) 7-6(8)
10 Roland Garros (France) Clay R16 Nicolas Almagro 6-1 4-6 6-1 6-4
Other Meeting:
01 Spain F7 (Spain) Clay QF Fernando Verdasco 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3

Almagro FastFacts:
2011 Highlights:
W: Costa Do Sauipe (d Dolgopolov); Buenos Aires (d Chela); Nice (d Hanescu); F: Acapulco (l Ferrer); SF: Auckland (l Nalbandian); Barcelona (l Ferrer); Bastad (l Ferrer)
YTD W-L: 38-13 (29-7 on clay)
YTD Titles: 3
Career Titles: 10
Date of Birth: August 21, 1985
South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking: 14

* Almagro, 25, is into the semi-finals for the first time and enters with an 8-5 career mark in Hamburg...He is No. 2 in aces (27), behind Cilic (30) and is No. 2 in service games won (30 of 33 held, 91%)
* He comes in with a 38-13 match record and ATP World Tour-best 29 match wins on clay (29-7 mark)              * He’s won a career-best three ATP World Tour titles, all on clay, Costa do Sauipe (d. Dolgopolov) and Buenos Aires (d. Chela) in February, and Nice (d. Hanescu) in May…Also runner-up in Acapulco (l. to Ferrer)…
* Has a 10-3 career record in ATP World Tour finals, all on clay, winning at least one title every year since 2006
* One of six Spaniards to win an ATP World Tour title this season (Almagro-3, Nadal-3, Ferrer-2, Andujar, Ferrero, Robredo)
* The last Spaniard to reach the final/win the title in Hamburg was Rafael Nadal (d. Federer) in 2008

Verdasco FastFacts:
2011 Highlights:
F: San Jose (l Raonic); Estoril (l Del Potro); QF: London / Queen's Club (l Roddick)
YTD W-L: 21-14 (9-6 on clay)
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 5
Date of Birth: November 15, 1983
South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking: 22

* Verdasco, 27, is appearing in the semi--finals for the first time in Hamburg and he owns an 11-5 record...Two of his losses have come to No. 1 Federer ('05, '08)
* The Madrid native is making his third appearance in an ATP World Tour semi-final or better this season…He was runner-up in San Jose (l. to Raonic) in February and in Estoril (l. to del Potro) in May
* Has a 21-14 match record on the season (9-6 on clay)
* Ranked in the Top 10 for nearly one-third of the season before falling to No. 12 on Apr. 18…Slipped out of the Top 20 on June 6 (after Roland Garros)
* He is trying to become the second left-hander (Nadal in ’08) to win the Hamburg title in the past 10 years
* He has a 5-10 career mark in ATP World Tour finals (3-5 on clay)

* Spaniards in Top 25 -- Here is a look at the highest-ranked Spaniards in the South African Airways
2011 ATP Rankings:
2) Rafael Nadal
6)  David Ferrer
14) Nicolas Almagro
22) Fernando Verdasco
24) Feliciano Lopez

POTENTIAL FINAL HEAD-TO-HEADS –

Gilles Simon (FRA) vs Nicolas Almagro (ESP)   Tied 1-1
06 Valencia (Spain) Clay F Nicolas Almagro 6-2 6-3
10 FRA vs. ESP WG QF (France) Hard RR Gilles Simon 7-6(4) 7-6(7)

Gilles Simon (FRA) vs Fernando Verdasco (ESP)  Tied 2-2
06 Valencia (Spain) Clay SF Gilles Simon 6-2 7-6(5)
07 US Open (U.S.A.) Hard R64 Fernando Verdasco 6-0 6-4 6-3
08 Nottingham (Great Britain) Grass QF Fernando Verdasco 6-3 2-6 6-3
10 Valencia (Spain) Hard R16 Gilles Simon 6-1 6-3

Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) vs Nicolas Almagro (ESP)  Youzhny Leads 3-0
08 ATP Masters Series Miami (U.S.A.) Hard R32 Mikhail Youzhny 7-6(4) 3-6 7-6(6)
09 Munich (Germany) Clay R16 Mikhail Youzhny 7-6(2) 6-4
11 Wimbledon (Great Britain) Grass R32 Mikhail Youzhny 4-6  6-3 7-6(3)  6-3

Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) vs Fernando Verdasco (ESP)  Verdasco Leads 2-0
08 ATP Masters Series Hamburg  Clay R64 Fernando Verdasco 6-3  6-2
08 Roland Garros (France) Clay R32 Fernando Verdasco 7-6(5) 5-7 7-5 6-1


ATLANTA SATURDAY PREVIEW – AMERICAN TRIO OF FISH, HARRISON, ISNER JOIN MULLER IN SEMI-FINALS

It’s down to the last four players at the Atlanta Tennis Championships, and for the first time since last year’s stop here, there are three Americans in the semi-finals of an ATP World Tour tournament. Two of last year’s trio are back again, top seed and reigning champion Mardy Fish and last year’s finalist John Isner. Andy Roddick was in last year’s semi-finals.

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The first semi-final pits No. 3 seed Isner against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg. Since being ranked in the Top 20 in January, Isner has had somewhat of a slide down the rankings, bottoming out at No. 47 for the Wimbledon fortnight; but after winning his second ATP World Tour title in Newport two weeks ago he has bounced back, currently No. 35. Having won five matches in Newport, he has extended his winning streak to seven matches here with wins over James Blake and Yen-Hsun Lu in his first two matches. Next up he faces Muller, who is playing his first ATP World Tour semi-final in six years (his last one came at Los Angeles in 2005). Muller has already taken out two seeds to get here, No. 7 seed Alex Bogomolov Jr. and No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson. The only time Isner played Muller came here in the second round a year ago, with Isner winning, 46 76(6) 76(7). Both men had their service games working with Isner hitting 33 aces, Muller 29.

The second semi-final under the lights is between top seed Fish and Ryan Harrison in a first-time meeting. Fish was ranked No. 49 going into this tournament last year but after a sensational 12 months he is now the world’s No. 9-ranked player, as well as America’s No. 1. With straight set wins over Nicolas Mahut and No. 8 seed Somdev Devvarman, Fish has improved to 7-0 lifetime here and he’s hoping to make this the first tournament he has won twice. In between the 29-year-old Fish and a spot in the final will be 19-year-old countryman Harrison, who is playing in his first ATP World Tour semi-final. By virtue of going this far here he will break into the Top 100 for the first time on Monday (he came in No. 120 and will surpass his previous career-high of No. 101 on July 4 to around No. 95).

SATURDAY SEMI-FINAL FED-EX HEAD 2 HEADS - In Order of Play

(3) John Isner (USA) vs Gilles Muller (LUX)  Isner Leads 1-0
10 Atlanta (USA) Hard R16 John Isner 4-6 7-6(6)  7-6(7)

Isner FastFacts:
2011 Highlights:
W: Newport (d Rochus); QF: Auckland (l Nalbandian); Houston (l Karlovic)
YTD W-L: 18-14 (8-6 on hard)
YTD Titles: 1
Career Titles: 2
Date of Birth: April 26, 1985
South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking: 35

*Isner, 26, is appearing in back-to-back ATP World Tour semi-finals for the first time in his career…Two weeks ago he captured his second career ATP World Tour title in Newport (d. O. Rochus)…He only lost serve once in 54 games that week…Also fired 76 aces and moved his ranking from No. 46 to No. 36
* He leads this week in service games won (25 of 26, 96%), break points saved (8 of 9, 89%) and first serve points won (83%) and is No. 2 in aces (38) and first serve pct. (69%)
* His previous best results of the season was the quarter-finals in Auckland (l. to Nalbandian) in January and Houston (l. to Karlovic) in April
* Last year’s Atlanta finalist (l to Fish) opened on Wednesday night firing 30 aces in a 76 67 75 win over Tampa neighbor James Blake…He is 10-3 lifetime when hitting 30-more aces…On Friday, he defeated Yen-Hsun Lu 61 62, tying for fewest games lost in a match in his career
* He leads ATP World Tour with most tie-breaks won (21-15) this year and has played at least one TB in nine of past 11 matches, compiling 10-4 mark
* He is 2-4 in his career in ATP World Tour finals and one of three Americans to win an ATP World Tour title this year (Roddick-Memphis, Sweeting-Houston)

Muller FastFacts:
2011 Highlights:
YTD W-L: 9-3 (7-2 on hard)
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 0
Date of Birth: May 9, 1983
South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking: 82

* Muller, 28, is appearing in his first ATP World Tour semi-final since 2005 Los Angeles  where he lost to Andre Agassi in the final…His other semi-final (or better) came in 2004 Washington (l. to Hewitt in final)
 * He is playing in his third ATP World Tour level event of year (9-3 record), having reached 2nd Rd. at Australian Open (as qualifier) and 3rd Rd. of Wimbledon (as WC); has had strong results on Challenger circuit, compiling a 21-8 match record with one title and three more finals
* This is the left-hander’s second appearance at this event (4-1 record); reached 2nd Rd. last year (l. to Isner in third set TB); This week d. No. 7 seed Bogomolov Jr., WC Ginepri and No. 2 seed Anderson, firing tourn.-high 46 aces)
* Has come back from a knee injury to rank in Top 100 again…After Aust. Open 3rd Rd., went from No. 103 to No. 91 on Feb. 7…Fell out from Mar. 7-May 30 before returning on June 6 (from 121-93) …Came in No. 82 this week and will move to around No. 75 thus far (has 32 pts. coming off from here last year) and around No. 66 if he reaches the final and around No. 58 if he wins the title

Muller vs. Top 10 – He is 5-14 vs. Top 10 opponents in his career:
d. No. 6 Agassi, 2004 Washington SF
d. No. 10 Nalbandian, 2004 Tokyo 3rd Rd.
d. No. 3 Nadal, 2005 Wimbledon 2nd Rd.
d. No. 3 Roddick, 2005 US Open 1st Rd.
d. No. 5 Davydenko, 2008 US Open 4th Rd.

(1)Mardy Fish (USA) vs Ryan Harrison (USA)  First Meeting

Fish FastFacts:
2011 Highlights:
SF: Memphis (l Raonic); Delray Beach (l Del Potro); ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami (l Djokovic); QF: Houston (l Nishikori); Wimbledon (l Nadal)
YTD W-L: 24-14 (14-8 on hard)
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 5
Date of Birth: December 9, 1981
South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking: 9

* Fish, 29, the top American, is trying to defend an ATP World Tour title for the first time in his career...This is the Minnesota native’s fourth semi-final of the season, the first since Miami in April (l. to Djokovic)…He is the top seed this year for the second time (Houston, QFs)
* Also a semi-finalist in  Memphis (l. to Raonic) and Delray Beach (l. to del Potro) in February
*He leads the tournament in return games won (8 of 18, 44%), first serve pct. (73%) and No. 7 in service games won (16 of 19, 84%)
* He enters with a 24-14 match record (14-8 on hard) and he broke into the Top 10 for the first time on Apr. 18 then slipped out for next three weeks before returning on May 16 (has been there since – 10 weeks)
* Two weeks ago, he played in U.S.-Spain Davis Cup QF tie in Austin, Texas and lost opening match to Lopez 8-6 in fifth set and then to No. 6 Ferrer in four sets in reverse singles
* Prior to that, reached his first Wimbledon quarter-final (l. to Nadal)
* Has a 5-12 career mark in ATP World Tour finals (2-2 last year)

Harrison FastFacts:
2011 Highlights:
YTD W-L: 7-10 (6-5 on hard)
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 0
Date of Birth: May 7, 1992
South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking: 120

* Harrison, 19, is making his ATP World Tour semi-final debut after rallying to defeat qualifier Rajeev Ram 46 61 76(5) in the quarter-finals on Friday…He also posted his fifth Top 50 win (of seven overall) this season over No. 40-ranked Xavier Malisse on Thursday to reach his second ATP World Tour quarter-final of career (’10 Newport)…He was last direct entry into main draw
* He is the first American teenager to reach an ATP World Tour semi-final since July 2007 when Sam Querrey (19) advanced to the semis in Indianapolis (l. to Tursunov)…Querrey also last American teen in Top 100 in ‘07
* He reached a career-high No. 101 on July 4 after reaching the second round at Wimbledon (d. No. 37 Dodig, l. to No. 6 Ferrer in five sets) as a lucky loser…He will climb from No. 120 to around No. 95 by reaching the semi-finals and to around No. 86 if he reaches the final, to around No. 71 if he wins the title
* He will join No. 73 Bernard Tomic (18) of Australia as the only teenagers in the current Top 100 rankings
* In Newport, captured his first ATP World Tour doubles title (w/Ebden, d. Brunstrom-Shamasdin) and only teenager to win a singles or doubles crown this season
* In March, advanced to the fourth round at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells, posting wins over No. 49 Chardy, No. 25 Garcia-Lopez and No. 37 Raonic before losing to No. 2 Federer 76 63

POTENTIAL FINAL HEAD-TO-HEADS

John Isner (USA) vs Mardy Fish (USA)   Fish Leads 2-1
09 San Jose (U.S.A.)  Hard R16 Mardy Fish 6-2 6-7(4) 7-5
10 Atlanta (USA)  Hard F Mardy Fish 4-6 6-4 7-6(4)
11 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid Clay R64 John Isner 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(3)

John Isner (USA) vs Ryan Harrison (USA)   Isner Leads 1-0
10 Memphis (U.S.A.) Hard R32 John Isner 6-1 7-5

Gilles Muller (LUX) vs Mardy Fish (USA)    First Meeting

Gilles Muller (LUX) vs Ryan Harrison (USA)    First Meeting

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