Monfils and Young to duel for spot in final

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Second seed Gael Monfils fought his way through a gruelling quarter-final at the PTT Thailand Open 2011 on Friday, defeating last year’s runner-up Jarkko Nieminen, 7-5, 7-6(4).

The Frenchman relied on his first serve and strong groundstrokes to win most of the points while the left-handed Finn adhered to a mixture of baseline and strong net play.

The opening set saw the two players break each other twice before the world #9 broke his opponent’s serve in the eleventh game on the second of three break chances. Monfils then held serve with ease to capture the first set, 7-5.

In the second stanza, Nieminen held serve comfortably in his first three service games, but was forced to save three break points in each in the next three. However he managed to hold serve each time to force the set into a tiebreak.

Monfils jumped to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak. Nieminen got things back on an even keel with a point on Monfils serve to bring the score back to 3-4. However Monfils surged to a 6-4 lead before the Nieminen hit a ball that was called long. A Hawk-eye challenge revealed that the ball had barely caught the line forcing a replay of the point. It mattered little, however, as Monfils closed out the match on the next point with a beautiful volley.

“I’m feeling better and better. All the matches this year, I felt a bit sore. But it’s good to be back on tour. I think Jarkko played a very strong game and it was tough,” said Monfils.

The Frenchman sets up a semi-final showdown with American Donald Young, who will break into the Top 50 for the first time after easing past Japanese qualifier Go Soeda 6-1, 6-2 in the day’s first quarter-final.

Young served at an amazing 88-percent and won 80 percent of points on his service games in the lopsided win. The win propelled him to his second career semi-final. This is a breakthrough season for the 22-year-old American, whose results recently have included a semi-final showing in Washington and the fourth round at the US Open.

Monfils won the only previous meeting between the two. He won in straight sets three years ago in Cincinnati.

“I think Young is a great player. He has improved a lot and played great two weeks ago in the States. So I expect a tough match and think it will a great match tomorrow,” said the Frenchman.