at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Auckland – Defending champion David Ferrer cruised into the final of the ATP Auckland tournament against an injured Gael Monfils on Friday, setting up a decider against in-form Philipp Kohlschreiber.
The Spanish top seed defeated Monfils 6-1, 6-2 after the Frenchman, making a comeback after a knee injury that marred his 2012 season, suffered a hamstring strain in the semi-final of the warm-up for next week's Australian Open.
Ferrer will meet Kohlschreiber in the final after the German second seed downed American Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), giving the world number five the chance to equal Australian Roy Emerson's record of four Auckland titles.
Monfils, backing up from a draining win over third seed Tommy Haas on Thursday, lost his first service game to Ferrer before calling for the trainer, receiving strapping to his left thigh.
Moving gingerly around the court, the former world number seven had the strapping removed two games later but could not find a way into the set, with Ferrer breaking again to win the set 6-1.
The Frenchman rattled off three aces to take the first game of the second set but remained rooted to the baseline, conceding two further breaks and losing the match in less than an hour.
Monfils, whose ranking plummeted to 99 as he was sidelined, did not believe the setback would affect his campaign for the season-opening Grand Slam in Melbourne.
“I'm very sore but I've got a couple of days to be ready for the (Australian) Open,” he said.
“It was tough for me, David is an incredible player and today I was very tired. Against an opponent like David it's very physical so I was unable to fight and be on the court for two hours.”
Ferrer, who won in Auckland in 2007, 2011 and 2012, has dropped just one set in this year's tournament and said he was looking forward to the challenge posed by Kohlschreiber.
“It was bad luck for Gael, he was tired after the match from yesterday. I played my game, every day I've played better and I'm in the final again,” he said.
“It's very difficult to play him (Kohlschreiber), he's playing very well.”
Kohlschreiber, the 2008 Auckland champion, had Querrey in trouble early, moving the lanky American around the court to go up a service break in the fifth game and taking the first set 6-4.
The big-serving Querrey finally began to find his range after going down another break in the second set, fighting back to force a tie-break.
But he was left stunned as Kohlschreiber, ranked 19 in the world, stepped up his intensity, winning the shoot-out 7-2 with a combination of powerful serving, accurate returns and fading drop shots.
“It was a really great match from my side, I played unbelievable,” the German said. “I was very focussed today, I was in the zone.” – Sapa-AFP