Gael Monfils once ranked among the world’s top 10 players, beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday to advance to the Winston-Salem Open semifinals.
The 43rd-ranked Frenchman will face Alexandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine, a 7-6 (7), 6-3 winner over Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan.
”It’s always good to be in the semifinals, especially after two big wins,” Monfils said. ”(Verdasco is) very aggressive, hitting lots of winners and making lots of mistakes. It makes you play a bit different.”
In the evening session at the Wake Forest Tennis Center, American Sam Querrey beat unseeded Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-3, 6-4 in the final hard-court tournament before next week’s US Open.
Monfils, a touring pro since 2004, was once ranked as high as No. 7 in the world at the end of the 2011 season. But a knee injury forced him to miss the final four months of the 2012 schedule, dropping him as low as No. 119 as he tried playing his way back into shape.
Then, the Frenchman missed another month on the tour dealing with ankle and bicep injuries, with the Winston-Salem Open his first tournament action since the forced break.
Against Verdasco, Monfils had key service breaks in the second and third sets to move into a tournament semifinal round for the fifth time this season.
”I’m pretty happy with how things are going,” said Monfils, who had seven aces and just one double fault. ”Hopefully, I can keep winning and try to get back into shape.”
In beating Lu, the 38th-ranked Dolgopolov overcame a knuckle injury on his left hand to advance to a semifinal for the first time this season.
The right-handed Dolgopolov had to take an injury timeout in the fifth game of the second set after hitting his left thumb with the frame of his racket on a forehand shot.
”I couldn’t feel it much for a few games,” Dolgopolov said. ”It just aches — not a hard pain, but it threw off my concentration a bit. Stuff like that happens. You have to deal with it and get back as fast as you can.”
Dolgopolov, who had a half-inch cut on the first knuckle of his left thumb, lost serve in that game. But he broke right back in the sixth game, then had another service break two games later.
”I wasn’t happy I lost the break,” said Dolgopolov, who had nine aces against No. 62 Lu. ”I was serving pretty solid all match, but after that, I gave away three points that he didn’t do much to break. After that, I did pretty well for a few games.”
Querrey — at No. 29, the highest ranked player remaining in the field — advanced to a tournament semifinal for the third time this season, and his first since mid-February at San Jose, Calif.
”I thought I played well — the best I’ve played so far,” Querrey said. ”I had that mental lapse in the second set, but I was fortunate there. I can’t afford to have that happen tomorrow, but all around it was pretty good. I’ve gotten a little better in each match, and I hope I can be even better tomorrow.”
Querrey finished with 10 aces, but struggled with his serve at times against the 126th-ranked Berankis. At one point in the second set, the two swapped service breaks in four straight games before Querrey served out the match.
”I was just frustrated about those previous two service games,” Querrey said. ”He broke me in both of those, and that doesn’t happen often. That last game, I turned the dial up a little bit. I wasn’t going to be broken a third time, so I went with the gas right down the middle.”
Querrey will next face Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, who beat Dmitry Tursunov of Russia 6-4, 6-3 in a match that was delayed twice for rain, the second delay lasting just over an hour.
The 32nd-ranked Melzer had only two aces to eight by Tursunov, but he broke the Russian’s serve four times — three coming in the second set — to advance to his third tournament semifinal this season and the first since winning in Dallas in March.
”I felt like I hit the ball well, a lot better than I did the first two rounds,” Melzer said. ”(The rain delays) were tough, because I was in a really good rhythm. It was difficult, but I felt like I was in command of the game.”