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Gonzalez, Gabashvili Advance To Semis At Challenger Tour Finals

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Gonzalez© Agência InovafotoAlejandro Gonzalez improved to 2-0 in round robin play at the ATP Challenger Tour Finals, advancing to the semi-finals.

Alejandro Gonzalez made history on Thursday at the ATP Challenger Tour Finals, becoming just the sixth Colombian-born player to break into the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Gonzalez defeated Jesse Huta Galung 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 on the second day of round robin play, clinching a berth in the semi-finals of the year-end championships in Sao Paulo.

The Medellin native, who won three titles on the Challenger circuit in 2013, joins Alejandro Falla and Santiago Giraldo as active players from Colombia in the Top 100. He began the year ranked No. 238.

The 24 year old survived a rollercoaster match against Huta Galung, which included a combined eight breaks of serve and multiple momentum shifts. Both players saved a total nine break points in their opening service games, a harbinger of the near two hours to come.

A double fault from the Dutchman would give Gonzalez the first break of the match for 4-2 in the first set. After dropping the set 6-3, Huta Galung would rebound in the second, breaking immediately and winning four of the final five games to close it out 6-2. Gonzalez would not be fazed, however, breaking to open the third on another double fault from the World No. 106 and holding on for the victory after Huta Galung netted a forehand return down match point.

“I knew it would be a tough match,” said Gonzalez. “He serves very well and I needed to focus my game on long rallies to have my chance. At the end I was tired, of course, but I think I wanted the win more than he did.”

Challenger Tour Finals Player Spotlight: Alejandro Gonzalez

Gonzalez improved to 43-16 this year on the Challenger Tour with the win and will put his perfect record in Sao Paulo on the line against seventh seed Andrej Martin when round robin play concludes on Friday. An undefeated champion will have to win five matches in five days at the season finale.

“I have points and prize money [on the line] tomorrow,” added Gonzalez. “Even though I’m already qualified to play the semi-finals, I need to improve a little in every match to keep rising.”

Huta Galung, meanwhile, will find himself in a must-win encounter against Filippo Volandri, with the winner emerging from the Yellow Group alongside Gonzalez.

Volandri (pictured below) routed Martin 6-0, 6-4 to open the day’s action. Behind seven service breaks, the Italian veteranVolandri won 62 per cent of return points, capturing the first ten games of the match and staving off a late charge by the Slovakian. The second seed and former World No. 25 improves to 1-1 in group play and is seeking his 25th final on the ATP Challenger Tour. Martin was eliminated from semi-final contention with the loss.

“It's going to be a tough match against Jesse [Huta Galung],” Volandri said after the match. “It will decide who is going to be in the semi-finals and the one that will be out of the tournament. I feel ready to play, but I know it won't be easy. I hope to make the semi-finals.”

In Green Group action, Teymuraz Gabashvili improved to 2-0, moving into the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Oleksandr Nedovyesov.

“Even if I’m already in semi-finals, every match is important,” Gabashvili said. “My best ranking was 59 and I know that if I win here I’m going to be close to that, near Top 70. But there’s still a long way to the title.”

Challenger Tour Finals Player Spotlight: Teymuraz Gabashvili

The Russian quelled a fast start by Nedovyesov, dropping just four games after failing to garner a break point in the first set. Behind a steadier baseline game and deep forehand rallies, Gabashvili disrupted the 6’4” Ukrainian’s rhythm, breaking three times in the final set and hammering a forehand return winner on his first match point.

Gabashvili, who recovered from an ankle injury suffered on Wednesday, revealed, “I wasn’t sure if I could move well and I was really afraid in the beginning because I felt a lot of pain yesterday. After the first set I forgot about my leg and I had to fight.

“I try to play with passion and every crowd likes that.”

Nedovyesov will duel with 2012 runner-up Adrian Ungur (pictured below) with semi-final qualification on the line. UngurThe Romanian defeated wild card and home favourite Guilherme Clezar 6-3, 7-5 to improve to 1-1. After dropping the first set, Clezar served for the second set at 5-4 but was broken and would relinquish another break when serving to force a tie-break, sealing the match for Ungur.

ATP Challenger Tour Finals Friday Round Robin Match-ups
Play begins at 2:00pm local time
(2) Filippo Volandri (ITA) vs. (4) Jesse Huta Galung (NED)—Volandri leads 2-1
(5) Alejandro Gonzalez (COL) vs. (7) Andrej Martin (SVK)—First meeting
(3) Oleksandr Nedovyesov (UKR) vs. (6) Adrian Ungur (ROU)—First meeting
(1) Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS) vs. (8) Guilherme Clezar (BRA)—First meeting

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