Marcos Baghdatis bids for his first semifinal since making the finals earlier this season in Dubai. Dudi Sela is in rare territory himself, looking for his first semifinal since making the finals at the BB&T Atlanta Open in July 2014. They battle in the quarterfinals at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Thursday.
(4) Marcos Baghdatis vs (7) Dudi Sela
The 4th seeded Cypriot rolled past qualifier Brian Baker to open his Newport campaign on Wednesday. Baghdatis lost just eight points on serve en route to a 6-4, 6-3 win. He would break Baker three times on seven chances to ease into the quarterfinals. Baghdatis was especially stout with his first serve, winning 19 of 21 points and overcame the inconsistency of landing it (48%) by winning 17 of 23 second serve points. The 4th seeded tallied six aces. The win pushes Baghdatis’ grass court record above .500 this season to 5-4. This is his third quarterfinal on grass in 2016, having made and lost at that stage in both Halle and Nottingham.
The 7th seed from Israel upended defending champion Rajeev Ram in straight sets on Wednesday 6-3, 6-4. Sela survived seven double faults, winning 81 percent of his first serve points. Sela showed a good nerve when it mattered most, saving seven of seven break chances. He took advantage of a less than stellar day from Ram who won just 59 percent of his service points. Sela broke him twice on four chances. The win nets Sela his second quarterfinal on grass this season. The Israeli made the quarters in Nottingham, where he lost a tough three set affair to Andreas Seppi.
Thursday’s quarterfinal marks just the second career meeting between Baghdatis and Sela. They last met in 2009 on an outdoor hard court in Delray Beach. Baghdatis came through 7-6 (7), 6-3. It also marks the third time that Sela has made the quarters in Newport. He’s done so in 2012, 2014 and this season. It’s been his stumbling point with losses to Lleyton Hewitt and Ivo Karlovic previously.
The problem spot for both players can be an inconsistency in landing their first serves. That was on display by both on Wednesday. Baghdatis landed just 48 percent and Sela just 52 percent. Both did a marvelous job on second serve to cover that short coming, but would do well not to wind up in the same situations on Thursday. For the season, the 4th seeded Cypriot averages landing his first serve 53 percent of the time. It is a weapon when he can, allowing him to win 76 percent of the points. Sela does a bit better on average at 58 percent, but he’s been lower than that in both rounds of play in Newport. Sela also normally is only winning about 65 percent of his first serve points, much lower than his opponent.
Both players are similar on the ground. They both move well when healthy and have decent, but not overpowering ground strokes off both wings. Baghdatis packs slightly more punch per pound, but not so much that it makes for a huge advantage. Still, it can make a difference. This one likely will come down to who saves those break chances the best. Baghdatis did not have to face any today, while Sela survived more than half a dozen. On the year, Sela saves right at 55 percent of his break points faced. Baghdatis saves 61 percent with the bigger serve.
Baghdatis seems to succeed despite his failure to land that first serve consistently. Grass has been his second best surface winning wise in his career. Sela has enough to make this interesting, so it could go three. When the final ball is played though, this should be a Baghdatis win.
Baghdatis wins in straight sets