BARCELONA (Reuters) - French Open runner-up Robin Soderling ruined Eduardo Schwank’s 24th-birthday celebrations when he thrashed the unseeded Argentine 6-2 6-3 in the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open Friday.
The Swedish world number eight has not dropped a set all week on the Catalan clay and will play unseeded Thiemo de Bakker for a place in Sunday’s final.
Dutchman De Bakker, a former junior world number one, took his first top-10 scalp when he upset third-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a match briefly interrupted by rain.
The 21-year-old ignored the partisan support from local fans for the flamboyant Tsonga and sealed victory when the erratic world number 10 went long with a forehand return.
Second seed Soderling saved the only break point he faced against 59th-ranked Schwank, converting three of his four chances, and said he felt his form on the red dust was even better this year than last.
“I had a great (clay) season last year but didn’t start so well,” Soderling, who lost to world number one Roger Federer in the Roland Garros final, told a news conference.
“Compared with last year I think I am doing better,” he said, adding the knee problem that stopped him competing in last week’s Monte Carlo Masters was no longer troubling him.
“The clay makes things easier for the knee and the whole body and I feel good now so fingers crossed.”
Spanish players continued their impressive performance on clay this year when Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer advanced to the last four.
Fifth seed Verdasco, who looked to be feeling the effects of his run to the final in Monte Carlo, edged out Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-2 7-6 and will play Ferrer Saturday after the eighth seed thumped Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 6-4 6-0.
“David is one of the top players, especially on clay,” Verdasco told a news conference.
“He is a very tough player, he controls the court very well and it’s very hard to knock him off his stride.”
Rafa Nadal won the title in Barcelona for the past five years but withdrew from this year’s event to rest ahead of next week’s Rome Masters after thrashing Verdasco in Monte Carlo.
Ferrer, who lost to Nadal in the Barcelona final in the past two years, has won 20 of his 22 matches on clay in this campaign, including the title in Acapulco.
(Editing by Justin Palmer and Ken Ferris
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