* Manerbio, Italy, €43,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : Spanish veteran Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won his 3rd Challenger title in Scheveningen in July and he failed to repeat similar form in the next 3 Challengers he played.
Now, he will play in his 3rd semi-final of the season here in Manerbio after a 7-6 6-0 win over Oscar Otte in an hour and 17 minutes. The first serve worked well for the Spaniard and he defended his second serve well, losing serve twice from 3 chances that Otte created.
On the other hand, German lost more than 50% of the return points and he got broken 5 times, losing the ground completely after the tight first set. There were 4 breaks of serve in the opening 6 games, two on each side, and they served well in the rest of the set to set up a tie break.
Garcia-Lopez grabbed it by 7-3 with 3 mini-breaks and he was now in a good position to bring the match home. He was too strong in set number 2, dropping just 2 points on serve and breaking Otte on all 3 occasions to win the set by 6-0 in less than half an hour, sealing the win in style to reach the last 4.
21-year-old Elias Ymer won the title in Cordenons last Sunday, and he continued where he left there, edging another youngster Carlos Taberner by 7-6 7-5 in an hour and 42 minutes. Elias made the difference with his second serve, losing just 17 points on serve after a slow start and 2 breaks suffered.
Taberner struggled more in his games and he lost serve 3 times to end on the losing side, unable to send this entertaining match into a decider. Spaniard made a great start, breaking Swede in games 1 and 3, but Ymer pulled one break back in game 4 to reduce his deficit.
Leading 4-2, Taberner had 3 more break points to probably seal the opening set and Elias fends them off all to stay in contention, and this will prove to be very important. Carlos served for the set in game 10 when he got broken and he fell short in the close tie break as well, as Ymer won it by 7-5.
Elias pretty much stole the opening set and the momentum was now on his side, which he embraced with both hands in set number 2. He dropped just 2 points in 6 service games, keeping the pressure on Taberner's side, and Spaniard finally folded in the closing stages, losing 12 out of the final 14 points and the crucial service game at 5-5.
In the longest match of the day, the 3rd seed Roberto Carballes Baena took down qualifier Lorenzo Sonego by 5-7 6-2 6-4 in 2 hours and 27 minutes for his 5th semi-final of the season (he lost to Ymer in Cordenons last week). Sonego, who is ranked 446th and who played in the quarters here last year as well, fought like a lion, but his second serve stood under constant stress all the time, and he lost his serve 6 times from 7 chances Carballes Baena created.
Interestingly, Spaniard had to face 10 break points but he fends off 6 to decrease the damage in his games, and that was enough to score a win. It was a rather slow start for both, with 2 breaks for each in the first 8 games to stay locked at 4-4.
Spaniard saved 2 set points on serve in game 10 but Sonego did found the way to break him in game 12, taking the opener 7-5 after a better performance in the closing stages. Roberto started to push harder on the return in set number 2, breaking Lorenzo 3 times for a 6-2, and he continued in the same style in the decider as well.
He broke in the opening game and kept the lead through the entire set to bring it home by 6-4. That early break proved to be very costly for Sonego, he played well in the rest of the set but just couldn't find that extra few points that would put Carballes Baena under more pressure on own serve.