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Del Potro Sets Gulbis QF In Rotterdam

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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Juan Martin del Potro will face Ernests Gulbis in a big-hitting ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament quarter-final after overcoming nervous moments in the second set to defeat Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu Thursday in Rotterdam.

Del Potro was forced to save two set points serving at 5-6, 15/40 to force a tie-break. But once he did, he powered to the finish line, dropping just two points in the ‘breaker to close out his 6-2, 7-6(2) victory, during which he clubbed 30 winners to just 20 unforced errors.

Del Potro admitted that he continues to hit more slice backhands than normal as he experiences low-level pain with his left wrist. “Sometimes I get frustrated… it’s not easy when I want to close the point and hit hard but I have to hit slices. But I have done this for the past month on the tour and I have to deal with it. If the pain goes away I will start to hit the backhand harder again.

“I know it’s not getting worse, that’s why I’m still playing. It’s normal to feel something on the wrist after 20 days without playing tennis and I’m playing here with more intensity and two matches in a row.

“My doctor is confident with my wrist… and he is watching me on TV. He’s expecting a quick recovery… If the doctor says it’s safe to keep playing I will keep playing all the tournaments and work hard to play well with my forehand and serve.”

At a career-high No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, del Potro improved to a 10-1 record in Rotterdam, having reached the final in 2012 (l. Federer) before his title run last year.

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The Argentine is enjoying a 23-match winning streak as a top seed, winning his past five tournaments when he has held that position.

Latvia's Gulbis powered into the quarter-finals with a straight-sets win over Australian Open quarter-finalist Grigor Dimitrov. Gulbis fired 12 aces and saved all five break points. Gulbis trails del Potro 1-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and fell to the Tandil native in straight sets when they met most recently in the Rotterdam quarter-finals last year.

Second seed Andy Murray survived a spirited challenge from 20-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem, withstanding 36 winners to pull through 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The match featured a series of enthralling rallies with amazing shot making, as Thiem thrilled fans with his explosive single-handed backhand. Murray is chasing his 29th title, but first of 2014.

"Obviously it was a tough match, it was a long match, a lot of long, close games," said Murray. "In the second set when he was playing very well, I created a lot of opportunities. A lot of love/30, break points, 30-all, couldn’t quite get them. Hopefully coming through matches like this, I’ll start to be able to take those opportunities a little bit better. But it’s been a good start for me and to play at least three matches in three days is good for my body, as well."

Thiem, a two-time quarter-finalist last year on the ATP World Tour in Kitzbuehel and Vienna, is the youngest player in the Top 125 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. Rotterdam is the third tournament at which he has qualified this year (Doha, Australian Open).

Third seed Tomas Berdych and Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz will meet in a quarter-final slugfest after both enjoyed comfortable wins Thursday. Berdych defeated Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-3 after saving all four break points he faced. Janowicz hammered 18 aces past German veteran Tommy Haas and did not face a break point in a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Berdych leads Janowicz 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but anticipated another close match. "The record is quite good, but both of the [matches] were very close, both were three sets," he said. "With him it’s always tough and very difficult. He’s a big guy, serving really well, hitting the ball very flat and very hard so it’s not going to be easy to find the rhythm. But I feel good on court. I’m playing well. I’m playing solid tennis, so just trying to build on that, bring some confidence from last couple matches, couple of weeks, and hope to do well."

German Philipp Kohlschreiber earned 14 break point chances against Richard Gasquet and converted four en route to a 7-5, 7-5 upset of the fourth-seeded Frenchman. He next will play Dutch wild card Igor Sijsling, who dismissed German qualifier Michael Berrer 6-1, 6-2.

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© Henk Koster


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