Soderling soldiers into Stockholm semi-finals (1st Lead)
By Bill Scott Oct 23, 2009, 19:00 GMT
Stockholm - Top seed Robin Soderling increased the pressure on his rivals for a place in next month's season-ending event as he rolled into the semi-finals of the Stockholm Open Friday 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 over Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Like he did 24 hours earlier against Andreas Seppi, the world number ten Swede had to overcome an early first-set break to take the victory, his 45th of the season against 18 defeats.
Since the US Open, last spring's French Open finalist stands 11-3 on the ATP as he bids for one of two spots remaining in the eight-man World Tour Finals in London from November 22.
Provisional number nine Soderling can narrow the gap on the man ahead of him, Spain's Fernando Verdasco with a possible title victory Sunday.
Soderling will Saturday play the winner from Marcos Baghdatis and French veteran Arnaud Clement, both past Australian Open finalists.
Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci reached his second semi-final in three months with a huge serving performance to defeat Swede Joachim Johansson 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
Bellucci, 21, the August winner in Gstaad on clay, rained down 18 aces, but had to deal with 13 off the racket of Johansson, the number 511 whose interrupted career has been a drama of shoulder injuries and long periods of inactivity.
The Swede, 27, was playing only his fifth ATP match of the season and fourth Stockholm quarter-final. Bellucci's serve was never broken while Johansson saved four of the five break points he faced.
Bellucci will next face Belgian Oliver Rochus, who put out recovering Finn Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.
'I have to try and keep up my game in my next match - I have a lot of confidence going into the semi-finals,' said Bellucci.
'I stayed concentrated throughout the whole match. I served very well which took pressure off me, so I was very happy with that.'
Nieminen has had little luck since coming back the week before the US Open after wrist surgery.
With his ranking down to 120th, he has one more week of grace on the ATP, taking to the court next week in Vienna before being forced to go onto the lower-level Challenger circuit to pick up ranking points.