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Semi-finals Set In Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sela© Douglas DanielDudi Sela qualified for the semi-finals in first place in the Yellow Group.

Former World No. 29 Dudi Sela has come out on top of the Yellow Group at the inaugural ATP Challenger Tour Finals after beating Germany’s Matthias Bachinger 6-2, 6-2 on Friday in Sao Paulo.

The Israeli is joined in the semi-finals of the eight-player season finale by German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, who came second in the group after crucially defeating Portugal’s Rui Machado in straight sets, 7-5, 6-0. All of Sela, Stebe and Machado closed the group with 2-1 match records, but with Stebe and Machado also level on sets won-lost (4-3), it was Stebe who advanced courtesy of the victory in their meeting.

The 26-year-old Sela broke serve four times from eight opportunities and won 75 per cent of his service points to defeat the No. 109-ranked Bachinger in 60 minutes. He is a winner of three ATP Challenger Tour titles this season.

"It was a good match again, like my first game [against Stebe]," commented Sela. "Yesterday I was really tired in the court and that didn't help, but I made my part and I’m happy to be in the semi-finals; hopefully I can make it to Sunday. The tournament has a really good level."

World No. 103 Stebe converted six of seven break point chances to upset this year’s ATP Challenger Tour leader Machado in 83 minutes. The 21 year old was outside the Top 400 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings in February, but after winning two ATP Challenger Tour titles this season, he cracked the Top 100 at No. 99 on 31 October.

"When I got here I was a little nervous about the situation and only in the second set did I start feeling more comfortable," said Stebe. "Today things worked out pretty well; I played aggressively and was in control of the match. I think that playing like this I can be a dangerous rival for the title."

Home favourite and top seed Thomaz Bellucci improved to a 2-1 record in Green Group after battling to a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(7) victory over Slovakian Martin Klizan. Both players broke serve three times, but it was the left-handed Bellucci who prevailed in the decisive tie-break after two hours and 45-minutes, having saved one match point at 5-6.

"I had to fight until the end and luckily I could get through," said Bellucci. "I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. Sometimes you're not on your best day and you need to find a way. The crowd really supported me and I used that good energy in the end."

World No. 37 Bellucci is a wild card in the event, which features the seven players who have performed best on the ATP Challenger Tour this season. The 23 year old reached two semi-finals on the ATP World Tour this year, including at the Mutua Madrid Open, where he defeated two Top 10 players – Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych – before losing to Novak Djokovic.

Germany’s Andreas Beck finished atop the Green Group as he dismissed American Bobby Reynolds 6-3, 7-5, finishing with a 3-0 match record. The sixth-seeded Beck broke serve three times from 11 opportunities and won 72 per cent of points on serve for victory in one hour and 33 minutes.

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