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Almagro Dismisses Simon; Baker Fairytale Lives On

Nice, France

Almagro© Getty ImagesNicolas Almagro is 11-5 lifetime in ATP World Tour finals.

Defending champion Nicolas Almagro will square off against American qualifier Brian Baker in the Open de Nice Côte d'Azur final after both advanced Friday in completely different fashion.

Almagro reached his third ATP World Tour final of the season after the third seed dismissed second-seeded Nice native Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-3. Almagro reversed a two-match losing streak against Simon, who is currently two places higher than Almagro at No. 12 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, with victory in 69 minutes. The 26-year-old Almagro hit eight aces and saved all four break points he faced.

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The Spaniard won his 11th ATP World Tour title at the Brasil Open in Sao Paulo (d. Volandri) and reached the Copa Claro final in Buenos Aires (l. to Ferrer) three months ago. He has a 33-11 record on the season.

Simon, who features in the Roland Garros issue of DEUCE, lifted his 10th ATP World Tour title at the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest (d. Fognini) last month. The Frenchman dropped to a 27-13 mark in 2012.

The 216th-ranked Baker continued his fairytale run, rallying past former World No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 32 minutes. The Nashville native battled back after dropping an opening set tie-break for the second day in a row, breaking Davydenko three times in the final set.

"I never envisioned this. It is special.," said Baker. "He was playing really well the first seven games. Then I played well to get it to the tie-break. I don't feel I played great at the end of the breaker. I knew we were able to break a lot, so I felt I was never out of the match even though I was down a break in the second. I played some good tennis to take the second set. I felt I had the momentum going into the third. I returned really well the last two service games he had to get up two breaks."

By reaching the final Baker should climb to around No. 140 (from 216) in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. He could surge to close to 110 if he wins the title.

Read Exclusive Baker Q&A | Read Baker Rides Comeback Wave

Baker has reeled off 15 straight victories, dating back to his first qualifying win at the Savannah Challenger. He went on to triumph in Savannah to earn the USTA’s wild card berth at Roland Garros, and will make his main-draw debut in Paris next week.

"I'll try and get some sleep, ice and stretch, and I'll be ok," said Baker. "It doesn't really sink in each day until I get back to the hotel room and get all the phone calls and see what people post on Facebook."

The 27 year old is bidding to become this season’s first player to win his first career ATP World Tour title.

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© Erika Tanaka


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