VIENNA, October 24, 2015
The semi-finals at the Erste Bank Open 500 featured a pair of seeds and two unseeded players with the latter starting the action on Saturday. Steve Johnson defeated Ernests Gulbis, winning 6-3, 7-6. The 25-year-old US-American fired 12 aces and saved the only break point he faced to extend his head to head record over the Latvian to 3-0 in one hour and 31 minutes. This victory represents a special triumph for Johnson, who is currently ranked on 47th position, as he advances to his maiden final on the ATP World Tour, after he had reached the stage of the final four for the fourth time.
“It was close but Steve served pretty well and hit a couple of great passing shots in the deciding moments. Ernests produced too many unforced errors and this made the difference in the end,” analyzed Günter Bresnik, the Latvian’s coach.
Johnson was understandably in a good mood after the encounter. “It feels great, I am super excited to reach my first singles final. It’s special that it is going to take place in Vienna, as it’s my first time here,” the US-American told afterwards and summarized the important stages of the match. “I noticed that Ernests came out a bit slow on his first service game against Ivo yesterday. I thought it would be a good chance to bring it home and get him early again, which I did. That was great and I served out the set. Ernests is a great competitor, he played a great game at 4-3 and then I kind a stuck my ground and played a good breaker.”
Johnson is not the only US-American competing in an ATP final this week, as Jack Sock reached the tournament’s climax in Stockholm as well. “I heard that Jack is doing well in Sweden. I am doing well here. Hopefully we will get some good press in US tennis for the first time in while. That’d be a good thing,” the Californian stated. In fact it will be the first time since 2008 that two US-Americans have reached a final on the ATP Tour the same week.
“I was surprised to hear that. It’s gonna be great. I am excited. Hopefully, we both can gain one more win. That’s a plan and next week we are trying to do the same thing,” he added and hopes to be seeded at next year’s Australian Open. “That’s a goal because when you’re number 33 in the world, you could play Novak in the first round. It doesn’t matter what you have done for the entire year, you’re 33 and you are going to play the best player in the world. If you’re just seeded, you’re forego the best 32 guys – not saying that every match is an easy one by any means – but not playing one of them in the first round is definetly a goal.”
Top-seed David Ferrer soared into the final, saving all six break points he faced to win 7-6, 7-5 against Gael Monfils. In the highly expected affair between the two, the 33-year-old Spaniard gained the decisive break in the 11th game of the second set to serve the match out in the following. The encounter lasted two hours and one minute.
“Now I have made it to the final and of course I will fight for the title tomorrow,” Vienna’s last year runner-up told after his victory. “I am not suprised that Steve made it to the final. He is a very good player and he beat a couple of strong players this season. I think that he likes playing indoors, as he has a good service. He is playing here with a lot of confidence but I will have a rest now and try to be ready tomorrow,” Ferrer is looking forward to the final, having a first tour meeting with the US-American.
“It has been the toughest match of the week so far,” the world number 8 told about the encounter with Monfils. “I played my best tennis this week, which I had to when playing against such a talented player like Gael is. The atmosphere was great. The fans supported both of us and playing with Gael is always nice, as he is a very charismatic guy on the court as well as a good friend of mine.”
Ferrer is going to play his fifth final of the season. So far, the Spaniard has won all four before, lifting the trophies in Doha, Rio de Janeiro, Acapulco and Kuala Lumpur. He is also close to book his place for the ATP World Tour Finals in London. “I haven’t qualified yet but of course reaching the final here is a big step into the right direction. For me the most important thing is that I am able to play a good season again, after I had suffered an elbow injury, which lasted three months. Winning tomorrow, however, is the main goal.”