Devvarman downs De Voest
Johannesburg - Reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games champion Somdev Devvarman from India reached the South African Open semi-finals on Friday by ousting local Rik De Voest.
The 25-year-old Davis Cup star triumphed 3-6, 7-6, 6-1 after a seesaw 138-minute struggle at Montecasino entertainment centre in a plush northern suburb of the South African financial hub.
It was second time lucky for the native of Assam in north-east India, who was eliminated in straight sets by Spaniard David Ferrer at the quarter-final stage of this ATP World Tour event last year.
A couple of early third-set service breaks set up Devvarman for his ultimately comfortable victory which moved him within two matches of a 76,500-dollar first prize and 250 ATP World Tour points.
"Rik is a great player whom I got on top of only in the closing stages and now I must face another South African (Izak van der Merwe) for a place in the final," said Devvarman.
"We share the same coach and practise a lot together so we know pretty well how the other plays. It is great to reach the last four of such a prestigious tournament as the South African Open."
Devvarman broke serve in the first game and led 3-1 before De Voest stormed back and two service breaks helped the South African win five games on the trot and take the opening set.
The second set saw a similar tale unfold with the Indian quicker into his stride to move 4-1 ahead before he dropped serve in the seventh game and De Voest took advantage to force a tiebreaker.
Devvarman seemed his own enemy at times, surrendering an early three-point advantage as the South African levelled via a superb backhand cross-court passing shot, before winning 7/5 and taking the duel to a third set.
The four-match centre-court show got off to a good start for the host nation with 1.96-metre Izak van der Merwe overcoming German Simon Greul 7-6, 6-2 in stamina-sapping early afternoon heat.
"I executed my game plan really well today, delivering some good serves when necessary," boasted Van der Merwe, who drilled 10 aces but double faulted four times and committed 37 unforced errors.
Greul was the second consecutive German victim for the 27-year-old after he beat Dustin Brown in the previous round having started his campaign with a triumph over 2010 runner-up Stephane Robert of France.
Van der Merwe appeared in trouble when trailing 40-15 in the ninth game before winning four consective points to hold service and a tiebreaker was needed to separate the pair.
There was a spate of mini-breaks before Van der Merwe held his service twice to lead 6-3 and although Greul pulled back two points it was the South African who successfully served to take the opening set.
It was not as close in the second set with the South African breaking service twice as he comfortably qualified for his first ATP World Tour semi-final.
The two surviving seeds will play later with Kevin Anderson (four) of South Africa facing Slovak Karol Beck after Adrian Mannarino (six) of France tackles Canadian giantkiller Frank Dancevic.