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Almagro Eyes Fourth Title Of Year; Simon Maintains Form To Reach Final

Hamburg, Germany

Simon© Bongarts/Getty ImagesGilles Simon has an 8-2 record in ATP World Tour finals.

Third-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro will meet fourth seed Gilles Simon of France for the third time on Sunday in the final of the bet-at-home Open - German Tennis Championships 2011 in Hamburg.

Almagro is the 12th different Spaniard to reach the final in the Open Era (since 1968). He will be attempting to become the first to lift the trophy since Rafael Nadal in 2008.

By comparison, Simon is the fourth different Frenchman to reach the title-match in the same period. Other French finalists include, 1986 - Henri Leconte (d. Mecir), 1988 - Leconte (l. to Carlsson), 2005 - Richard Gasquet (l. to Federer) and 2009 - Paul-Henri Mathieu (l. to Davydenko).

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Almagro advanced to his fifth ATP World Tour clay-court final of the year after he beat compatriot and No. 8 seed Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-1 in 85 minutes on Saturday. It was Almagro's 39th win in 52 matches this season and extended his ATP World Tour-best record on red dirt to 30-7.

"I am very happy with my tennis today," said Almagro. "It was my best match in Hamburg. I am happy with my tennis and my mentality. I am at a good moment in my career. We will see what happens tomorrow. It will be a big match."

The World No. 14 has a 3-1 record in title-matches this year, including successes at the Movistar Open in Costa do Sauipe (d. Dolgopolov), the Copa Claro in Buenos Aires (d. Chela), the Open de Nice Côte d'Azur (d. Hanescu). He was also runner-up at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco (l. to Ferrer).

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Earlier in the afternoon, Simon advanced to his 11th ATP World Tour final. He will be looking to lift his ninth trophy. Fifth seed Simon, who beat fellow Frenchman and top seed Gael Monfils on Friday, maintained his form to beat No. 4 seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in just over two hours.

Youzhny, through to the semi-finals for the first time in nine visits to the ATP World Tour 500 clay-court tournament, clinched the first set in 49 minutes. He won 20 of his 32 service points and converted two of seven break point opportunities.

Simon took a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Youzhny won the next two games.  The World No. 17 was broken to love at 3-3 and lost the next six games, which gave Simon an invitation to advance to his fifth clay-court final (3-2 record overall). Youzhny won 12 points in the deciding set.

"It was a very tough match," said Simon. "Mikhail was very good at the beginning, he didn't miss anything and I had to run a lot. I just tried to fight. I did not have the impression that I was playing too bad when he was leading.

"At 3-3 [in the second set], he started to miss a little bit and I was able to play my game. I have a good record in finals and I will try and improve it tomorrow. The match will be interesting."

It was Simon's second win over Youzhny this year, after a first-round victory at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February. Youzhny had previously won seven straight clashes.

Simon won his eighth ATP World Tour title at the Medibank International Sydney (d. Troicki). He improved to a 29-17 match record on the season.

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©Lionel Maltese


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