New Delhi:Continuing his giant killing act, India's Somdev Devvarman upped his game by several notches to beat fourth seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 7-6(4) 6-4 and storm into the semifinals of the Chennai Open ATP Tour tennis tournament on Friday.
Playing before a packed stadium and the home crowd rooting for him, Somdev, who on Thursday scalped former world no.1 and two-time champion here Carlos Moya, played his heart out to win the quarterfinal match in 86 minutes.
In the process, he became the only second Indian after Leander Paes to figure in the semifinals of the 14-year old prestigious event.
In 1998, Paes had lost to ultimate winner and top seed Patrick Rafter of Australia at the same venue. In the semifinals, Devvarman will meet Germany's fifth seeded Rainer Schuettler, who stayed on course with a 6-2, 7-5 win in 98 minutes over his compatriot Bjorn Phau earlier in the day.
In the other semifinal on Saturday, third seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia plays eighth seed Marcel Granollers of Spain.
Cilic sent Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia packing 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 in 122 minutes on the centre court, while eight seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain got the better of a fighting wild card entrant Lukas Dlouhy (Czech Republic) 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in a two hour marathon.
After his stunning display against Moya, Somdev was in his elements today also, probing Karlovic right from the third game. But the Croat, winner of the Nottingham ATP Tournament last year, never gave any leeway throughout the first set.
Somdev grew in confidence and was able to hold on to his services without being tested much. The two rivals played to their game plans and drifted the first set to tie-break.
The tie-break proved to be more productive for the Indian as he raced to a 3-0 lead starting his winners with an authoritative lob and then returned low on his backhand barely inches above the net to force Karlovic to find the net twice on returns.
Karlovic made good use of his services to bridge the lead to 2-3 with a flowing forehand and an ace but Somdev continued his aggressive play coming up with booming forehand top spin returns to go up 5-2.
However, the six-foot-ten-inch Croat kept up the pressure, forcing Somdev to send two service returns wide. The Indian waited for his chance. He made it 6-4 with a superb crosscourt forehand winner and then pumped in an ace to take the first set.
The second set was also a seesaw battle and was heading towards a tie-break as the rivals held on to their service games.
However, Somdev produced champion stuff to gain the first match point. Though Karlovic saved the match point, it was Somdev who had the last laugh to take the second set and win the match.
Somdev excelled with his low forehand crosscourt winners and the passing shots close to the line on both ends. His 11 aces as compared to just one by his opponent also made the difference.
In the match between Cilic and Tipsarevic, the Croat lost his rhythm a bit in the second set but got back to his touch in the decider.
"It took time for me to get used to the conditions here. In the beginning of the third set, I got my rhythm back and so I was able score points more easily and kept my focus avoiding errors," Cilic said later.
As for his match against Granollers tomorrow, Cilic said he had beaten him at an Indoor Masters in Paris 6-4 7-6(2) last year but admitted Granollers plays well on hard courts like other Spaniards.
"I have to be careful and more focused against him tomorrow," he said.