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Gasquet Strengthens London Bid

Moscow, Russia

Kukushkin© AFP/Getty ImagesMikhail Kukushkin beat defending champion Andreas Seppi in the semi-finals.

Richard Gasquet continued his push to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Ivo Karlovic in the semi-finals of the Kremlin Cup, on Saturday. Gasquet pulled to within a mere 35 points from countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the eighth and final postion in the Emirates Race to London. Tsonga fell to Robin Haase in straight sets in the semi-finals of the Erste Bank Open.

The World No. 10 will face qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin in Sunday’s Moscow final, with a win vaulting him past Tsonga and putting him close on the heels of Swiss contenders Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka. Considering the season finale in London is just two weeks away, it would be a significant boost to the Frenchman’s qualifying efforts.

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Gasquet was resilient against Karlovic’s big serve, converting on both break point opportunities. The Croat hammered 15 aces but was unable to garner a break of serve himself. “It is difficult because you have to serve well all the time and it’s tough to get break points,” Gasquet said. “You need to concentrate all the time.”

The Frenchman will seek his 10th ATP World Tour title and third of the year, after winning to open the season in Doha as well as on the indoor hard courts of Montpellier.

Gasquet won the lone encounter with Kukushkin, a 6-3, 7-5 decision in Toronto last year. The former World No. 49 is in the midst of a sensational fall campaign after reaching the US Open third round. The Kazakh is 19-1 since then, including titles at the ATP Challenger Tour stops in Istanbul and Izmir and this week’s run to the final as a qualifier.

“He is a good player,” Gasquet said of Kukushkin. “He won some Challengers, he played well at the US Open. For me it’s not a big surprise. He is very talented. He has a good forehand and a good backhand, he runs well. He is a dangerous player.”

Challenger Tour Finals Spotlight: Mikhail Kukushkin

Kukushkin ousted No. 2 seed and defending Moscow champion Andreas Seppi 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 in Saturday’s semi-finals. He will be looking to add to his success on Russian soil, having claimed his maiden ATP World Tour crown in St. Petersburg three years ago. The second qualifier to reach the final in Kremlin Cup history, Kukushkin is hoping to become the third such champion on the ATP World Tour this year.

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