Newport, Rhode Island, July 09: Sixth-seeded Olivier Rochus is back in the semifinals on Newport's grass courts.
The Belgian gained his third straight semifinal, beating Matthew Ebden, 7-6 (5), 7-6 Friday at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.
Rochus will face qualifier Michael Yani, who edged 18-year-old Denis Kudla, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5.
The pair will meet after Hall of Fame inductions Saturday afternoon. Andre Agassi heads the 2011 class that will be enshrined during an on-court ceremony.
No. 1 seed John Isner will face eighth-seeded Tobias Kamke in Saturday's other semifinal.
Rochus dropped last year's title match to Mardy Fish.
“It's great to be in the semifinals. In three years here, I've been to three semifinals,” Rochus said. “It's special to be there again.”
Rochus broke serve in eighth game of final set, the only time either player broke in the match. He then closed the final game at love, getting the winning point when Ebden hit a backhand shot wide on a service return.
The 30-year-old Rochus used array of steady groundstrokes, covering the court well even when Ebden sent a number of shots deep on the baseline, raising his career mark to 10-2 in Newport.
“I've played good here,” the 5-foot-6 Rochus said. “The (bounces) are tough. I think for my game and my play, I can move well.”
Up 4-3 in the tiebreak, Ebden double-faulted, but he regained the lead with an overhead smash on the next point. Rochus then won the final three points.
Ebden started his own demise when he hit a backhand return into the net. Rochus then placed a backhand crossing shot just on the sideline and closed it out with an overhead smash.
Rochus then had a chance to sit back and watch the third set of the Yani-Kudla match from behind the north baseline.
“If they play against me, it'll be their first semifinal,” he had said after his match. “Maybe they'll be nervous. It'll be tough.”
In the second quarterfinal—a match filled with numerous unforced errors—the players combined for five breaks in the last set. Yani broke the final time, going up 6-5 when Kudla hit a forehand long.
With fog and spitting rain moving in, the 30-year-old Yani closed it out with a forehand return just inside the baseline. He raised both arms, threw his racket to the ground in jubilation, and took the wristband off his right hand and fired that down, too.
“There's been some times in the past few years when I question why I'm playing,” he said. “... One week like this makes me come back for more.”
He was 0-7 on the ATP Tour before this week and entered ranked 361st.
“I'm 30 and I feel like before this week I never won a match on the tour so I decided to stop thinking about this thing,” he said. “Newport has always been a tournament where somebody always seems to come through. It's like playing the lottery sometimes.”
He led 4-1 in the second before getting broken twice.
“When I got up 4-1 in the second, I started thinking about things. I don't know how I got through the third,” he said. “I just didn't give up. Anything can happen and it did.”