BANGKOK (Reuters) - Top seed Novak Djokovic battled to a 6-4 7-5 win over a defiant Robin Soderling to reach the semi-finals of the $576,000 Thailand Open on Friday.
In a battle of big serves and powerful groundstrokes, the Serbian world number three combined a solid backhand with delicate drop shots and inch-perfect lobs to get the better of the hard-hitting Swede.
“He’s got a very powerful serve, I was aware of that and I was ready for him,” Djokovic told reporters.
”I could have closed out the match several times but he came back. He’s a very powerful player.
“The semi final will be really tough.”
Djokovic’s opponent will be third-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych after his gritty 7-6 6-3 win over Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, the pair firing 21 aces between them.
Playing in only his second tournament since a long injury layoff, second seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga eased into the semis with a 6-3 6-2 win over Austrian Juergen Melzer.
The Frenchman put on a confident display, blasting 13 aces to reach the final four for the third time this year.
“It was an easy match, I concentrated a lot and played some good tennis,” Tsonga said. “It’s a good sensation because it was tough to come back. I’ve had a lot to deal with and it’s just good to be here, playing again.”
Tsonga takes on compatriot Gael Monfils, a 7-6 6-4 winner over German Philipp Petzschner, for a place in the Bangkok final.
The fourth-seeded Frenchman had the edge in a tight match, switching his tactics to win a close tiebreak in the first set against an opponent playing in his first tour quarter-final.
Petzschner, who toppled Russian Marat Safin in the first round, pressurized his opponent’s backhand to try to force errors but Monfils broke serve at 4-4 in the second and held on to secure a place in his fourth semi-final of the year.
“It’s good to be in the semi-finals, it’s great for my confidence,” he said. “I‘m working on my stability and now I‘m very confident. I feel great.”
Editing by Ed Osmond and Padraic Halpin