San Jose: In a match-up of former Grand Slam champions, Juan Martin del Potro notched a convincing 6-2, 6-3 victory over Lleyton Hewitt to reach the semi-finals of the ATP Tour’s SAP Open.
Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion and former world number four, took another step in his comeback from a wrist injury as he reached his first semi-final since 2009.
“I’m feeling good this week,” said the Argentinian, whose 2010 campaign was cut short by a wrist injury that required surgery in May. “But I’m still far off my level. I can play better. I’m getting better slowly, but I’m getting better and that’s important.
“I know the way to find the solution to play good tennis,” added Del Potro, who is trying to regain the form that saw him beat Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open final.
Del Potro broke Hewitt early in each set and used his own strong serve to overpower Hewitt, who won the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002.
“He’s a quality player,” said seventh-seeded Hewitt. “I don’t think anyone doubted him. It was just a matter of how long it would take.”
Del Potro next plays defending champion and top-seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain, who beat fifth-seeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-4, 6-4.
“I’m very confident in this tournament,” said Verdasco, who improved to 8-0 in this event. “I did win last year and that’s in your mind in important moments.”
Earlier, up-and-coming Milos Raonic reached the first ATP Tour semi-final of his career, booking a clash with second-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils.
Canada’s Raonic defeated young Lithuanian Richard Berankis 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) while Monfils defeated US wild card Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).
Raonic fired six aces in each set and fended off the only break point he faced in the match.
He notched the lone break of the contest in the third game of the opening set and produced two aces in the tiebreaker to seal his spot in the final four.
“It feels good but there’s another match tomorrow,” Raonic said. “I have to prepare for it the same way I prepared for on Saturday.”
Raonic made it through qualifying and then reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in January, falling to eventual semi-finalist David Ferrer of Spain.
Ranked 152nd in the world at the end of 2010, he has climbed to 84th entering this week and is expected to climb about another 10 places when the new rankings are released next week.
On Saturday he’ll face the world number 12 in Monfils.
Monfils survived a brace of set points in his second-set tiebreaker to emerge with a victory in another match that included just one break of serve.