Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro reacts during the match against Ernests Gulbis of Latvia in the quarter-finals of the World Tennis meet in Rotterdam on Friday. Del Potro lost in straight sets. - EPA
ROTTERDAM (AFP): Ernests Gulbis ended Juan Martin del Potro's winning run when he beat the top seed 6-3, 6-4 in a quarter-final upset at the Rotterdam World Tennis on Friday.
Gulbis, the world number 24 from Latvia, will face third seed Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals after the Czech defeated Poland's Jerzy Janowicz 6-7 (9-11), 6-2, 6-4 in a hard-fought victory which took nearly two-and-a-half hours.
In his last five tournaments as the top seed, defending champion Del Potro had won five titles and 23 straight matches.
Wimbledon winner Andy Murray tried to maintain the honour of seeds but failed as the second seed lost to former top-10 competitor Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-3, 6-4.
The Croat will challenge Igor Sijsling of Holland, who beat Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, for a place in the final.
Del Potro came to the match without much ability to hit a penetrating backhand as he plays with medical permission while trying to clear up his wrist problem.
Gulbis will be playing in his first semi-final at the event after advancing in 81 minutes with a dozen aces as he forced Del Potro to save seven of nine break points.
"If you let him play, he will play," Gulbis said. "I don't give any timing, I made him play bad. I concentrated on his backhand, we had a lot of long rallies.
"I played well at the right moments.
"I felt in control almost all the match, I was nervous in the last game but a good kind of nervous, I kept on playing well. Those are the kinds of nerves that I can handle."
Gulbis, who won his second match out of five against Del Potro, claimed the opening set in 36 minutes with a break in the penultimate game after the Argentine had saved three chances of a break.
Del Potro said he has felt delicate all week but still believes his dodgy wrist is on the mend.
"My doctor is confident and I will keep on playing tournaments as long as the wrist does not get worse," said the world number four. "It's getting better very slowly but it can be tough to remain optimistic all the time.
"When you are not at 100 per cent you are thinking about your problems instead of your tennis. That's what happening this week.
"He played a good match and deserved to win. He played a smart strategy against my backhand."
Del Potro will train next week prior to Dubai, convinced that hard work will help his healing process. "I need lots of work on my shots and spend time in the gym doing my exercises and rehab."