Spain's Alex Corretja has been knocked out in the semi-finals of the Swiss Open tennis tournament in Gstaad. The popular player's bid to defend last year's title win came to an end with a three sets defeat by the Czech Republic's Jiri Novak.
The 6-3, 3-6, 4-6 loss ended an impressive run of results for Corretja in the Bernese Oberland. Having won here in 1998 and 2000, with a gap in between due to injury, the Spanish's player's Saturday defeat was his first in Gstaad for four years.
"I always come to tournaments wanting to win," a disappointed Corretja said afterwards. "And especially here, having done so well in the past. But I was happy with how I played. I just have to give credit to Novak, who was able to play a little bit better."
Corretja had appeared to be in control of Saturday's match early on and was apparently heading towards an all-Spanish final with compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero after breaking Novak in a lengthy sixth game.
The Spanish world number nine comfortably held his own service games throughout the first set to take a 6-3 lead.
But after ousting home favourite Michel Kratochvil in Friday's quarter-finals, Novak soon showed he had no intention of ending his campaign there. Playing powerful strokes from the baseline, the Czech world number 40 pushed Corretja to five break points with the score at 2-1 in the second set.
Each time Corretja managed to cling on but on his next service game the Spaniard was not so fortunate. After being taken to 0-40, the defending champion double-faulted to concede what turned out to be the decisive break.
Having clinched the second set 6-3, Novak took his good form into the third set, breaking Corretja in the very first game. Despite strong support from the Swiss crowd, Corretja was offered just one more break point opportunity, which he was unable to convert.
The final game of the match saw Novak serving out to love to complete a resilient 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
"It was a very difficult match," Novak said moments later. "As well as being a top ten player, Corretja is a double champion here and has shown how dangerous he can be at altitude."
Final against Ferrero
The Czech outsider will now face another Spaniard in Sunday's final. The impressive Ferrero booked his place with much greater ease, after beating French third seed Sebastien Grosjean in straight sets.
The 21-year-old Spanish second seed is yet to drop a set this week and should provide yet another big challenge for the plucky Novak.
"This is exciting for me," Novak said with a grin. "It's my fifth time in a final and it's always a nice experience. Everything's been going well for me here and now I've got nothing to lose. I'm ready to surprise people."
Doubles success for Federer
After failing to make it beyond the first round of the singles competition this week, Swiss number one Roger Federer provided the Gstaad crowd with something to cheer on Saturday as he and partner Marat Safin won through to the doubles final.
Federer and the Russian world number two overcame the South African and Czech pairing of Marius Barnard and Cyril Suk in a tense semi-final encounter, clinching victory only after two tie-breaks.
Federer and Safin will now take on Australia's Michael Hill and America's Jeff Tarango in Sunday's final.
by Mark Ledsom, Gstaad
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