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Del Potro advances to second straight AMRO Final

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Associated Press
2/16/2013 10:20:43 AM
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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands -- Juan Martin del Potro and Julien Benneteau will meet in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament final after they recorded straight-sets semifinals victories on Saturday.

Del Potro reached his second straight final at the Rotterdam tournament by beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-4. Benneteau then overcame fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-4, 7-6 (2), with Simon troubled by an upper thigh injury through much of the second set.

Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, lost to Roger Federer in last year's final but he won't have to overcome him this year after Benneteau beat the Swiss master in the quarterfinals.

"It was not as good as yesterday, but who cares? I won," Benneteau said.

In the first semifinal, the 1.98-meter (6-foot-6) Del Potro's powerful serves and groundstrokes were too much for the swift and agile Dimitrov, who was attempting to reach his second ATP final of the year after losing to Andy Murray in Brisbane last month.

Del Potro broke in the third game of each set and rarely let Dimitrov attack his serves. Del Potro hasn't dropped a service game in the tournament -- but he still sees room for improvement.

"I am serving well, but I need to serve a little better tomorrow in the final," he said. "I saved a couple of break points, so I need to improve myself."

Dimitrov showed the flashes of the genius that have made him a crowd favourite at Rotterdam's Ahoy arena, including a between-the-legs shot from the baseline to return a powerful drive from Del Potro.

But the 21-year-old Bulgarian faded in the second set, possibly feeling the effects of Friday's grueling three-set quarterfinal victory over Marcos Baghdatis that lasted 2 1/2 hours.

The all-French semifinal went with serve until the ninth game of the first set when Benneteau capitalized on his third game point by chasing down a Simon backhand and playing a cross-court forehand that Simon scrambled to reach but could hit only into the net.

Simon forced a break point in the next game, but Benneteau saved it and went on to serve out the set.

In the very next game, Simon grabbed at the back of his left leg at the top of his thigh.

Despite the injury, he broke Benneteau in the second game, only to take an injury time-out for off-court treatment when Benneteau broke back in the fifth game.

When Simon returned, he managed to take the set to a tiebreak, but Benneteau easily won it to take him a step closer to his first ATP title.

"It's never easy to play against a friend, a Frenchman," Benneteau said after beating his sometime practice partner and Davis Cup teammate.

Benneteau has reached seven singles finals, but never won one.

"I'm looking forward to my first title and I will be the happiest man if it's here tomorrow," he said.

Juan Martin del Potro (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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