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The quarterfinal results at the Open de Nice CÃ´te d'Azur were largely along expected lines with the exception of one big serving American John Isner, who crashed out of yet another clay court tournament this season. While Isner went down to 30-year old Russian Nikolay Davydenko, the other two seeds left in the competition made progress as defending champion Nicolas Almagro and 2nd seed Gillses Simon booked their spots opposite each other in Friday's semi-finals. The last spot in the semis was taken by world no.216 Brian Baker with the American squeezing past Mikhail Kukushkin in a final set tiebreak.
Nikolay Davydenko of Russia saw off the threat of the American giant, John Isner in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 7-6 (7). There was nothing wrong with Isner's serve and the top-seed fired 13 aces in the match but his Russian opponent did not let the good serving come in his way. Davydenko was clearly the better player in the first set as he broke Isner's serve once and saved three break points on his serve. Going down in the first set meant the top-seed had to come back strongly in the second set and he did try. Isner was trying to claw his way back into the match but Davydenko had other plans. The second set was decided by a gripping tie-break which went in the Russian's favour, who was unaffected by Isner's powerful serving and played to his strengths. The former World no.3 will meet another American, Brian Baker in the semis.
Baker has been the story of the tournament. He reached the quarter-finals by getting the better of Frenchman Gael Monfils. His match with Kukushkin was worthy of a quarterfinal and could have gone either way. After trading the first couple of sets, Baker went down a break in the third and saved a match point en route to pushing it into a tiebreak. He went on to win that 7-4. Baker reached the semi-finals of an ATP World Tour event for the very first time after yesterday's victory. The American is returning to tennis after struggling with a series of injuries which threatened to end his career. The 2003 Junior French Open Champion is currently ranked 216th in the world.
Local star and second seed in Nice, Gilles Simon encountered no trouble in dismissing Thomaz Bellucci in the quarters. The Brazilian looked like a challenge in the first set, dropping it 7-5 but Simon crushed him completely in the second set, winning it to love. The Frenchman will clash with the reigning champion, Nicolas Almagro in the semi-finals. Almagro registered a straight sets 6-4, 6-4 win over Steve Darcis in the quarters.
Almagro and Simon have played each other thrice previously with Simon leading the head-to-head battle 2-1. Simon has won both of their last two meetings with Almagro's solitary triumph coming 6 years ago. Their last contest went the distance with Simon squeezing out a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 on the red clay of Hamburg.
Nikolay Davydenko def (1) John Isner 6-4, 7-6(9-7)
Brian Baker def Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(7-4)
(2) Gilles Simon def Thomaz Bellucci 7-5, 6-0
(3) Nicolas Almagro def Steve Darcis 6-4, 6-4
File Photograph Copyright: Dubai Open
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