Spain’s Fernando Verdasco hopes to put aside a finals defeat last weekend when he plays for the trophy plus Spanish pride against second-seeded Swede Robin Soderling at the Barcelona Open.
Spain has won the last seven editions of the tournament and put a man in the final of the previous 13.
A week ago, world number nine Verdasco was hammered in Monte Carlo by rampaging Rafael Nadal, who withdrew from Barcelona to rest after winning the last five editions. Verdasco became the 14th consecutive player from the host country to reach the final at the Real club through his 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, 6-1 marathon win over David Ferrer.
Verdaso will take a 2-5 career mark into the Sunday showdown with Soderling, who beat Dutch debutant Thiemo de Bakker 6-1, 6-4 in 75 minutes.
“I’m very happy to be in my first final here. I’ll work to recover and hope not to wake up too tired,” said Verdasco.
Soderling, losing French Open finalist last year to Roger Federer, is the first Swede into the local final since Magnus Larsson in 1995.
The last Swedish winner was Kent Carlsson in 1988.
Soderling won ten of the first 11 games against former junior standout De Bakker, 21. The number 67 earned a surprise break for 2-4 and put Soderling under more pressure with a break point in the final game.
But the clay-tough seed, playing on the surface for the first time this season, was having non of it. Soderling fired his third ace for a match point and converted to go through in 75 minutes in the pair’s first meeting.
It took more than two and a half hours fifth seed Verdasco to overcome Ferrer, who had lost the last two finals to Nadal and was playing a fourth consecutive semi at the venue.
Verdasco ran his record over Ferrer to 6-3 with the comeback performance, which began with a 66-minute opening set which was settled by a tiebreaker in Ferrer’s favour.
Verdasco got his own back in the second, rallying from an early break down and securing parity with another break of Ferrer in the 12th game.
In the third, Ferrer’s will to win sputtered in the face of the sustained attack, with Verdasco romping to victory on the back of five breaks of serve and four aces.
“The first two sets took two hours, but I gained confidence when I came back from a break in the second set,” said Verdasco.