A first ATP Tour hard-court final will be on the line when Emil Ruusuvuori and Ilya Ivashka square off in the Winston-Salem Open semi-finals following the pair’s respective straight-sets upsets on Thursday. Ruusuvuori took down former No. 7 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Richard Gasquet, 7-6(5), 6-1 to reach his third tour-level semi-final.
Ivashka earlier rode an impressive day on serve as he saw off top seed and 2016 champion Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6(2), 6-3. As with Ruusuvuori, it was the third straight seed he had felled to reach his third career semi-final.
Frenchman Gasquet made early inroads against Ruusuvuori and carried his advantage to serve for the opening set at 5-4 only to be broken. With the first set in the bag, the floodgates opened for the 22-year-old Finnish player as Gasquet was visibly struggling in the hot and humid conditions.
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Ruusuvuori, who also reached the semi-finals in Atlanta a month ago, closed out the clash at the 93-minute mark on his fourth break. He won 78 per cent of first-serve points and 56 per cent on of second-serve points.
“I thought that first set was a very high level. He’s a great player. He’s been playing on tour almost more years than I have in my life,” he said. “The break back [in the first set] was key. Obviously, we saw that everything wasn’t quite there physically with him so that’s a pity.”
Ivashka improved his ATP Head2Head to 1-2 against Carreno Busta as he notched his second tour-level semi-final of the season, following his run to the final in Munich in May. The 27-year-old Belarusian defeated Ruusuvuori en route to that runner-up showing in the pair’s only prior ATP Head2Head meeting.
“Of course it’s a great feeling. I had a great match today. These conditions suit me,” Ivashka said. “I think he had more pressure because he’s the top seed so for me it was a good challenge to see what my level is and to compete with these guys, so for me it was a great match.
“I think I was playing very aggressive and I was not giving a lot of time to him, trying to push him from the return from the baseline. I was trying to go to the net to play as aggressively as I could and it worked.”
The 27-year-old lost just nine points on serve and never faced a break point. He claimed 86 per cent of first-serve points and 73 per cent on his second serve.
“It could be one of the best [serving performances of season]. I was not thinking during the match about this statistic but it was obviously working well because he didn’t have a break point and he’s a great returner,” Ivashka said. “If I gave him more chances I think he would be harder.”