Nadal easily wins quarterfinal at Thailand Open; next faces Benjamin Becker in semis

Friday, October 1, 2010

Nadal has easy time in gaining Thailand Open semis

NONTHABURI, Thailand — Rafael Nadal rode a big serve to sweep past Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-3 Friday and reach the Thailand Open semifinals.

The top-ranked Spaniard next plays compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who beat fourth-seeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3.

Earlier, Jarkko Nieminen of Finland reached his second semifinal of the year with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over third-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria. Nieminen next faces 2007 finalist Benjamin Becker of Germany, who defeated countryman Daniel Brands 6-4, 6-2 in less than an hour.

Nadal is the only seeded player in the semifinals. He has a 2-0 record against Garcia-Lopez, who will be playing in his first semifinal since June when he reached the grass-court Eastbourne final.

In beating the 83rd-ranked Kukushkin, Nadal had nine aces and conceded only seven points on serve. That’s one fewer than he had the day before against Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium.

Nadal was playing Kukushkin for the first time. He built a 5-3 lead in the second set, then served two straight aces to close the match in 71 minutes.

“The first thing for me is I’m in the semifinal, and second thing is my serves keep working very well,” he said. “My forehand worked well. I moved to the net from time to time.”

Nieminen won a string of baseline rallies and benefited from unforced errors by Melzer in taking a 5-3 lead in the first set. Melzer saved two set points before Nieminen smashed the winning point in the set. Nieminen, ranked 60th, delivered a strong serve to finish the match.

“I have played three great matches here,” he said. “My mind is consistent at the moment. I’m serving better than ever. And I’m feeling very good about other parts of my game.”

(This version CORRECTS Updates with last quarterfinal, details; Corrects Kukushkin’s ranking)

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