Marcos Baghdatis reached 2 ATP semi-finals this season before Chengdu, with a 13-15 score so far in 2017, but that will all change after this week, as he advanced to his 14th ATP final, the first since Dubai 2016. Cypriot took down Guido Pella by 5-7 6-4 6-2 in 2 hours and 2 minutes, playing better and better as the match progressed to earn a chance to fight for the first ATP crown since Sydney 2010. It was a close match in the opening 2 sets but Baghdatis played a little bit better on both the first and second serve to emerge as a winner, saving 5 out of 8 break points he faced and firing 12 aces.
Pella lost 42% of the points in his service games and he had to work hard to remain in contention and force that decider, fending off 7 out of 12 break points in total but running out of steam in the last part of the match.
The Argentine scored the first break of the match in game 2 when Marcos missed a forehand but Baghdatis got the break back a few minutes later, thanks to a big error from his rival. They settled into a nice rhythm after that and Marcos served to stay in the set in game 12.
He played a loose service game to be broken, making some basic errors both from the baseline and at the net, and Pella clinched the opener by 7-5. Baghdatis opened the second set with a break, converting his 4th break point in a 19-stroke rally, and he moved 4-1 in front after a break at 15 in game 5.
He served for the set at 5-2 and he wasted a set point before Pella pulled one break back after a forehand error from his rival. The Argentine reduced his deficit to 5-4 and he had another break point in game 10, for a complete turnaround.
His drop shot couldn't reach the other side and this was one of the breaking points of the entire match, as Baghdatis closed the game with a solid forehand attack for a 6-4, forcing a decider. Pella had 30-30 in all 4 return games but he never created another break points, with Marcos playing well in these deciding moments, and it was Cypriot who scored 2 breaks in a row to cross the finish line first.
He broke Pella in game 3 after a terrible forehand from the Argentine, and again in game 5 following a similar error from his opponent, who lost the ground completely. Marcos earned a match point with a forehand down the line winner in game 8 and he seized it with a service winner for his first ATP final in more than a year and a half.
Just like Baghdatis, Denis Istomin had to wait for a long time before reaching his new ATP final, the 4th in a career, toppling the 5th seed Yuichi Sugita by 6-2 6-7 6-0 in an hour and 38 minutes. They played only once before, 9 years ago in Davis Cup, and Istomin won that one as well, although without a lost set.
Today he recovered nicely after the second set tie break to march towards the finish line and his first title match since Nottingham 2015 when he won his only ATP crown so far. Denis fired 11 aces and he had to play against only 2 break points, losing serve once, and he was the dominant figure on the return as well, taking 45% of the points on Sugita's serve to break him 6 times from 9 chances.
Denis found a nice rhythm right from the start, losing just 3 points on serve in the opening set and taking the last 4 games for a commanding 6-2. Sugita played a terrible service game to get broken at love in game 6, and he wasted 2 game points in game 8 when Istomin scored another break with a return winner.
Japanese raised his level in the second set, defending his service games better and dropping just 9 points on serve in the entire set, keeping the pressure on Istomin who struggled to keep his second serve safe. Sugita scored his first break of the match in game 5 after a backhand error from Denis, but he started to miss again in game 8 when he got broken at love, as Istomin leveled the score at 4-4.
They served well in the remaining games and the set had to be decided in the tie break. Uzbek was 4-3 in front when he lost 4 straight points to lose the set, Yuichi was more focused and he sent the encounter into a deciding set.
Japanese fired a great forehand winner to open a 5-4 gap and he clinched the set when Istomin's backhand landed behind the baseline. His efforts were in vain, though, as he served at only 43% in set number 3 to lose 14 out of 21 points in his games, suffering 3 breaks! On the other hand, Denis sailed through his service games to control the result and wrap up the set and the match in under half an hour.
The deep return gave Istomin a break in the opening game and he scored another one after a double fault from Yuichi in the 3rd game. Japanese had to lay down his weapons after another mistake in game 5 that cost him the game, and Istomin closed the match with an ace a few minutes later. Semi-final results:
• ATP Chengdu: Alexander Zverev wins season's second title• ATP Chengdu: Pablo Carreno Busta edges Alexander Bublik to lift title• ATP Chengdu: Pablo Carreno Busta downs Denis Shapovalov to set Bublik clash• ATP Chengdu: Denis Shapovalov wins. Hyeon Chung and Taylor Fritz bow out• ATP Chengdu: Fernando Verdasco, Dusan Lajovic, Pablo Carreno Busta advance• ATP Chengdu: Cristian Garin downs Kyle Edmund. Evans and Klahn reach R2