Spain's David Ferrer moved one step closer to what would be the biggest title of his career with a convincing 6-2, 7-5 victory Friday at the Paris Masters over France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Ferrer made Tsonga pay dearly for missing his first serve, winning six of the Frenchman's second-serve points in the first set en route to two service breaks.
The second set was much closer and appeared to be headed for a tiebreaker until Ferrer jumped out to a 0-40 lead in the 12th game. Tsonga managed to stave off two of the match points but Ferrer advanced to the semifinals when the Frenchman knocked a forehand wide.
The world No. 5 said prior to the match that he needed to control his service games because he was wary of having to rally from behind against his powerful opponent, who won this title in 2008.
In the end, he executed his game plan perfectly and did not face a single break point in the match.
The 30-year-old Ferrer has won 17 career singles titles and reached four Grand Slam semifinals. He also finished runner-up at the 2007 year-end championships and has reached three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals during his career.
But, despite consistently being ranked in the world's top 10, he has never won one of tennis' biggest tournaments.
This week might be his best chance to do so, considering he will not have to beat any of the players ranked ahead of him to take the title.
World No. 1 Roger Federer withdrew from the tournament, citing various minor injuries, while Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - the second- and third-ranked players, respectively - were upset in the early rounds.
Ferrer's countryman, Rafael Nadal, now ranked No. 4, has been off the tour for months due to a knee injury.
Next up for Ferrer in Saturday's semifinals will be another Frenchman, Michael Llodra, who followed up his upset of Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro on Thursday by defeating American Sam Querrey on Friday night 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
Llodra saved five break points - the only ones he faced in the match - to eke out a service hold in the seventh game of the second set and then clinched the match two games later.
Saturday's other match will pit two surprise semifinalists: Poland's Jerzy Janowicz, who upset Murray on Thursday, against France's Gilles Simon.
The six-foot-eight Janowicz, a qualifier, has been the story of the tournament and continued his dream run with a 3-6, 6-1, 4-1 ret. victory Friday over ninth-ranked Serb Janko Tipsarevic, who retired due to illness.
"In the second and third set I just played the best tennis of my life," the 69th-ranked Janowicz said. "I didn't know actually I can play that good. It's really not easy for me to realize what is going on in my life right now."
Simon upset Berdych, winner of this event in 2005, 6-4, 6-4 on Friday.
"I had good feelings today, and I made very few unforced errors," the Frenchman said. "So he had to do the work and fight a lot. I was very consistent during the whole match."
The Paris Masters is one of nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, which are the biggest tournaments on the men's tennis calendar after the four Grand Slams and the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. EFE