SOFIA, February 5, 2016
For the only second time since 2009 on the ATP World Tour, all eight seeds met in the quarterfinals of the Garanti Koza Sofia Open at Arena Armeec on Friday. Last time this occured was in Gstaad in July 2015.
In the first match on centre court, top-seed Roberto Bautista-Agut eventually started his Sofia title bid after the world number 18 had received a bye as well as a walkover versus Filip Krajinovic in the first two rounds. Bautista-Agut appeared in his third quarterfinal of the season and defeated the tournament’s number eight Adrian Mannarino for the second time in their third tour meeting, winning 6-4, 6-3. Bautista-Agut took the opening set when he converting his first break point in the tenth game through a nice forehand cross court passing shot. He gained the decisive break in the sixth game of the second set to close the match out after 68 minutes.
“It is never easy to start a tournament in the quarterfinals. Mannarino has already played two matches and so I think that I did a great job. It is never easy to play against him, as he has a really good serve but I managed to compete well and that’s why I won the match,” Bautista-Agut, who is the top-seed of an ATP event for the first time, told after the match.
“I feel good here. The surface seems to suit my game. With the altitude it is never easy to play but I just need to be focused on my game, my work and that’s what I am doing. I started the season pretty well and I am happy so far,” the Spaniard is satisfied with his performance in 2016, where he already clinched the title in Auckland. When he was asked, if he already had the chance to see a bit from the city he just stated “not much of it”.
Sixth seed Gilles Muller reached his second semi-finals of the season, claiming his first career win over the tournament’s number three Guillermo Garcia-López in the pair’s fourth meeting. Muller, who reached the final four in Sydney, clinched the opening set in the tie-break after he had been down with two breaks 2-5. From then on, the 32-year-old from Luxembourg took command of the match, firing his 14th ace to seal a 7-6, 6-4 victory in one hour and 32 minutes.
“It wasn’t the start that I planned today. I was very passive in the beginning and I gave him time to play his game. I got a little bit frustrated, as it was exactly the thing I didn’t plan to do. At 2-5 I told myself that the set has already been finished and try to find my rhythm for the second set. Then I got the break and I found the way, how I need to play. I got the 5-5 and from that moment on, I started to play really good tennis. I am happy with the performance from the end of the first set until the end of the match,” Muller explained his comeback win facing Bautista-Agut next.
“It is going to be another tough match and big fight. Roberto is an extremely good player. He has always been around the top 20 for the last three years and did well at the beginning of the season. So he has a lot of confidence. He hasn’t lost too much energy here, playing only one match. From my point of view I have to play aggressive right from the beginning. Then I will have a chance to beat him,” the world number 42 is looking forward to the semis on Saturday.
In the evening session, second seed Viktor Troicki gained his only second career win over the tournament’s number five Philipp Kohlschreiber. The 29-year-old Serbian lost the last four meetings with the German but saved the only break point he faced on Friday’s encounter and closed it out with his 15th ace after 73 minutes.
“I was afraid about today’s match, as I have a negative record against Philipp and he is a very dangerous player. If he plays well, he can beat everyone and should be ranked inside the top-20 but today I played a good level. I kept my focus and did what I needed to do to win. I served well and I am happy how I played,” Troicki analyzed the match.
“I was a bit under pressure in my last service game but I like the conditions here and I think it was time that I could gain a win,” he added with a smile.
In the final match of the day seventh favourite Martin Klizan defeated fourth seed Andreas Seppi for the first time in the pair’s third meeting, winning 6-4, 6-3. The top-ranked Slovakian was wide awake in the decisive moments, converting all of his three break points to seal victory in one hour and 21 minutes firing a punishing forehand cross court winner on match point.
“I am very proud that I am able to beat such a good player like Andreas for the first time,” Klizan told afterwards. “The balls were very heavy and hard to play. So it was difficult for both of us. I am happy to be through,” he added. It is the first tournament of the season, Klizan had survived the first round.
“It is always difficult when you do not win matches. It is getting tough then. Here in Sofia I had quite a good draw playing a wild card in the opening round. So I was able to gain more confidence and now I feel that I can play much better,” the world number 44 admitted and is taking on Troicki next.
“I lost to him a couple of times in a row. So I don’t expect anything from the match but I am going to try my best,” he said.
ATP Europe Vice-president David Massey met the Bulgarian Minister of Youth and Sports Krasen Kralev on Friday and was very satisfied with the inaugural edition of the Sofia Open.
“The organization of Garanti Koza Sofia Open is on pretty high level. I am really impressed with the job you’ve done for so short time”, the ATP representative told during his visit, where he also met Stefan Cvetkov, president of Bulgarian Tennis Federation, and Erden Bilginer, member of the Garanti Koza Board.
“I heard very positive players’ comments, too. I am sure that the next tournaments will be perfect. The Arena is wonderful – it is a great venue for the ATP World Tour. I am proud with this competition and I am sure that it was the right decision to organize an ATP World Tour 250 event in Sofia”, Massey added.
“The state supports tennis in Bulgaria because this is one of the most social sports. This tournament is a long term project and we want to improve it. We have plans along with our partners of Garanti Koza to build one big tennis center which should host major international events”, told minister Kralev.