Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic (pic) will square off on Sunday as both men bid for a first career title at the Rotterdam World Tennis. - AFP
ROTTERDAM (AFP): Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic will square off on Sunday as both men bid for a first career title at the Rotterdam World Tennis.
Third-seeded Czech Berdych played impeccable tennis to defeat Ernests Gulbis 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday while Cilic lost serve for the first time this week but recovered for a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over Dutchman Igor Sijsling.
Berdych, who has not lost a set so far this week, dropped just six points on serve in the 29-minute first set as he quickly took charge against Latvia's Gulbis, who earned his place in the semis after putting out top-seeded holder Juan Martin del Potro.
Berdych is bidding for his first ATP title since October 2012 and was the only member of the ranking top 10 not to lift a trophy during 2013 despite reaching the quarter-finals or better in 15 of his 23 tournaments.
The Czech, ranked seventh in the world, was satisfied after administering the thrashing to the 24th-ranked Gulbis.
"I did quite well from the beginning, and was able to keep my level up all the way. I played steady, with no ups and downs," said the winner.
"I played very solid, hitting the ball cleanly and nicely. The most important thing was that I stayed focused throughout the match.
"All that helps to build confidence, every win does that. He had been playing well but my plan was to put him under pressure and that's what I did, it was my game plan for today.
"But no matter who I play in the final, I will have to lift my level. I'm trying to improve my concentration and not ever get distracted on court. I'm playing well, this was a good win for me."
Berdych took the initiative with a break for 3-1 in the opening set, enough of a margin to win it for a solid early lead.
Gulbis was unable to make inroads in the second set as Berdych tightened his grip, earning a break for 5-2 after saving the only break point he faced in the match in the fourth game.
The Czech then claimed victory from two consecutive unforced errors from Gulbis.
Cilic, meanwhile, will be trying to win a second straight trophy after triumphing in Zagreb last week.
The 37th-ranked Croatian, who once stood in the top 10, owns 10 titles and had won 16 straight sets before falling in the first to an inspired Sijsling.
"It was a really tough match," said the winner. "He played so well and really made me work, I got lucky at times and was able to get out of trouble.
"I'm excited to be in another final but it will be difficult for sure against Tomas."
Cilic was broken for the first time this week, losing serve twice in the first set. But the Croatian quickly made a recovering, turning the tide against the home favourite to earn the win on his 15th ace after nearly two hours.
Berdych beat Cilic in their last meeting on grass at Queen's in 2013 and has won four of their six previous meetings.