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Almagro, Verdasco Reach Houston QFs

Houston, U.S.A.

Verdasco© Aaron M. SprecherFernando Verdasco is making his second visit to Houston.

Third seed and 2013 runner-up Nicolas Almagro reached the quarter-finals of the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship on Thursday evening after a 6-2, 6-3 victory over American veteran Michael Russell.

The 28 year old served seven aces and won 86 per cent of first-serve points against the 35-year-old Russell, denying the Houston resident his second quarter-final appearance of the season (Memphis).

Almagro next faces Jack Sock, 21, who defeated German Benjamin Becker 6-4, 6-3.

"I played really good tennis today," said Almagro about the start of his clay-court season. "I was practising really well at home. I am happy with my tennis. I played very aggressive."

Almagro will be joined by fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who defeated in-form American Steve Johnson 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 to book his quarter-final berth.

The fourth seed dropped serve once and capitalised on four of his five break points against Johnson, who had arrived in Houston at a career-high No. 69 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after winning the Le Gosier Challenger last week.

“This is my first match on clay this season,” said Verdasco. “I’ve been just trying to get the rhythm and feel the ball as much as I can… Even when I wasn’t playing that well, mentally I was well.”

He will next play another 24-year-old American, Donald Young, who advanced to his first clay-court quarter-final with a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3 victory over sixth seed Juan Monaco. The Argentine had become the fifth active player to record 200 match wins on clay Wednesday.

“I’ve never won two matches in a row [on clay]. Definitely not over a former Top 10 guy who wins most his matches on clay,” said Young. “It’s a big win for me and I’m just happy to move through.”

Colombian Alejandro Gonzalez reached his first ATP World Tour quarter-final, establishing a 6-3, 2-0 lead before fifth-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez retired from the match due to illness. 

In another Colombian-Spanish match-up, Santiago Giraldo saved all four break points faced to oust No. 2 seed Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4. Robredo was making his Houston debut.

“I had a lot of chances in a lot of games, and every time it was love/30, 15/30, I was hitting three in a row straight to the fence,” said Robredo. “With this, there’s no chance to win. Just need to keep working to see if I can have a great feeling for the next tournament.” 

Second Seeds Into SFs In Houston Debut
Second seeds David Marrero and Verdasco, the reigning Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champions, will play for a spot in the Houston final after defeating American Austin Krajicek and New Zealand's Michael Venus 6-3, 6-1 in 51 minutes. The Spaniards will face Colombians Giraldo and Gonzalez, who emerged victorious in a Match Tie-Break against the team of Becker and Rameez Junaid 1-6, 7-6(1), 11-9.

The other semi-final pits top seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, who advanced to the semi-finals on Wednesday, against Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione. The Australians downed Indians Purav Raja and Divij Sharan 6-2, 6-4.

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