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Isner, Simon Advance; Baker Upsets Monfils

Nice, France

Baker© Yohan Brandt/Open de Nice Côte d’AzurBrian Baker reached his first ATP World Tour quarter-final.

Top seed John Isner was made to work hard for his place in the quarter-finals of the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur on Wednesday, edging Belgium’s Xavier Malisse 7-6(3), 7-6(5). The American, who is making his debut at the ATP World Tour 250 clay-court tennis tournament, fired 13 aces, while neither player created a break point chance.

World No. 11 Isner has had mixed clay-court results this season. The 27 year old reached the Houston final (l. to Monaco) and excelled in his Davis Cup performances, notably victory over Roger Federer in February, but came into Nice on the back of a first-round exit in Madrid (l. to Cilic) and a second-round defeat in Rome (l. to Seppi).

Isner goes onto face Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko, who battled past seventh seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in just over two hours. Former World No. 3 Davydenko is through to his second ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season.

Second seed Gilles Simon also enjoyed a winning debut, beating Bulgarian qualifier Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-3 in 80 minutes. The Frenchman broke serve three times from seven opportunities to claim his 26th match win of the season.

The 27-year-old Simon recently won his 10th ATP World Tour title on the clay courts in Bucharest (d. Fognini). He next will face Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci, who defeated Spanish former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero  6-4, 6-3.

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Defending champion Nicolas Almagro defeated Edouard Roger-Vasselin for the second time on clay this season, advancing in his opener with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over the Frenchman. The third-seeded Almagro won 32 of his 37 first serve points to seal the win in one hour and 35 minutes.

Almagro, looking for his second title of the season after lifting the Sao Paulo trophy, will square off against Steve Darcis next. The Belgian rallied past Filippo Volandri 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to reach his second quarter-final of the season (San Jose).

American qualifier Brian Baker secured his biggest win in his comeback quest, upsetting World No. 13 Gael Monfils 6-3, 7-6(9).

"I'm very, very excited. This is the first ATP quarter-final I've ever gotten through to," said Baker. "Coming back and being able to play well so quickly, and beat a guy who has been so good, especially on clay, it's amazing."

The 216th-ranked Baker, playing his first ATP World Tour clay-court tournament and first tour-level event since the 2005 US Open, won 75 per cent of his first serve points to oust the fourth seed in one hour and 32 minutes.

"I know that I'm not going to beat these guys standing behind the baseline, trying to out hit them in a 20-ball rally," Baker said. "I know I have to step up and be aggressive, use my drop shot and kick serve, and play to my strengths."

Baker, recipient of the USTA’s Roland Garros wild card, is through to his first ATP World Tour quarter-final. He will look to continue his run against Mikhail Kukushkin, who saved four match points to overcome fifth seed Bernard Tomic 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. Tomic managed to convert just four of his 20 break point opportunities and dropped serve six times in the second-round loss.

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© Yohan Brandt/Open de Nice Côte d'Azur

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