Monfils pulls out of SAP Open

BY foxsports • February 12, 2011

While Juan Martin del Potro took another step in his comeback from wrist surgery, Gael Monfils pulled out of the SAP Open on Friday with his own wrist injury.

Monfils announced his withdrawal just hours after beating Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-6 (6) to advance to the semifinals. Del Potro also reached a semifinal for the first time since his wrist surgery last May, beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 6-3.

Monfils originally hurt the wrist in the first round of the Australian Open last month against Thiemo de Bakker. He played two more matches in Melbourne and then came to San Jose, where he won his first three matches and beat Pete Sampras in an exhibition.

But the wrist was still painful and limited him almost to slice shots on his backhand all week. He had an MRI on Monday, then was examined by tournament and French federation doctors Friday before making his decision.

''I can't hit a backhand,'' he said. ''I tried but my backhand was very soft. I have a better backhand than I showed here, more powerful. The worst is it hurts. It hurts.''

Monfils will be sidelined for four to six weeks, pulling out of tournaments in Memphis, Acapulco and the Davis Cup.

The withdrawal sends Canadian Milos Raonic into his first career final after knocking off Richard Berankis 6-4, 7-6 (2). Raonic will play Ivo Karlovic in an exhibition on Saturday in place of his scheduled semifinal match.

Del Potro's semifinal opponent willbe defending champion and top-seeded Fernando Verdasco, who beat fifth-seeded Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-4.

Del Potro is trying to regain the form that helped him win the 2009 U.S. Open and reach No. 4 in the rankings. He was sidelined by a right wrist injury last year, playing just three tournaments and failing to win a match after the Australian Open in January.

He is showing signs of his old form this week in San Jose, especially in the way he dismantled Hewitt, the former No. 1 player who won the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002. But Hewitt hasn't been a top-10 player in more than five years and has slipped to 70th in the rankings after losing in the first round of the Australian Open.

Hewitt had no answer for del Potro's powerful first serve in the first matchup here between former slam winners since Andre Agassi beat Michael Chang in the first round in 2003.

With del Potro getting 69 percent of his first serves in and winning 81 percent of those points, Hewitt was unable to find a rhythm all match. Del Potro lost just 12 points in eight service games, using a pair of aces to come back from 0-40 in the final game of the first set.

The result gave del Potro his 15th straight win on U.S. soil, including the titles at the U.S. Open and in Washington in the summer of 2009.

Raonic had six aces in each set against Berankis and saved the only break point he faced all match. The Canadian earned the only break of the match in the third game of the opening set and came up with two aces in the tiebreaker to advance.

Raonic, who made it through qualifying to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open, has been the biggest mover on the tour rankings this season, going from 152nd at the end of last year to 84th entering this tournament. He is expected to be around 75th after this tournament.

''It feels good but there's another match tomorrow,'' Raonic said. ''I have to prepare for it the same way I prepared for today. At the end of the week I'll look back and have my reflection on it.''

Monfils survived a pair of set points in the second-set tiebreaker to win a hard-fought match against Smyczek that featured only one break of serve.

''He played great today,'' Monfils said. ''He was strong at the baseline and moved very fast. I was a bit surprised. It was a good match. It was a great challenge for me.''

Monfils fought off two break points in the fifth game of the opening set before coming up with the only break in the 10th game with help from a double fault by Smyczek on game point. Monfils won the first set when Smyczek hit a forehand long.

Smyczek then squandered four break-point chances in Monfils' first two service games of the second set and fought his way into the tiebreaker in his first ATP Tour quarterfinal.

Smyczek took a 6-4 lead on his serve but hit a backhand long to lose the first set point. Monfils then hit a forehand passing shot that hit the line to even the tiebreaker and won the match when Smyczek hit a backhand volley into the net.


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