PARIS Unseeded Mariano Puerta won the battle of the Argentines when he beat Guillermo Canas 6-2, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 Wednesday to reach the French Open semifinals.
Puerta, who was appearing in his first Grand Slam
quarterfinal, reeled off the first five games of the match.
Ninth-seeded Canas battled back to lead two sets to one, but as
the rallies grew longer and more punishing, Puerta's greater
firepower began to pay dividends and he tied the score in the match.
Canas needed treatment on his feet early in the decider, but
it did not affect his movement he scampered all over the
court to stay in the rallies.
After grabbing a crucial service break midway through the
set, Puerta reached double match point at 5-4, only to be denied
by two spectacular passing shots from his opponent.
However, the 26-year-old left-hander held his nerve to clinch
victory at the third attempt when Canas netted a forehand after
3 hours, 35 minutes.
Puerta will play 12th-seeded Nikolay Davydenko who defeated Tommy Robredo 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 later Wednesday in the semifinals.
Russian Davydenko outgunned Spaniard Robredo in a tight contest. The two 23-year-olds, who struggled to hold serve throughout
the match, had traded early breaks in the decisive set before
Davydenko managed the telling one in the seventh game.
Robredo, seeded 15th, survived three match points on his
serve two games later, but the Russian then served for the match
and earned a fourth, with the Spaniard hitting a forehand wide
to bow out after three hours and 18 minutes of play.
Davydenko will next face Puerta, whose run at Roland Garros caps a remarkable transformation after he was suspended for nine months when he tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol.
He returned in July with a ranking of 440 and spent the
rest of 2004 playing on the second-tier Challenger Circuit.
This year, he has been a consistent performer on clay,
winning the title in Casablanca and reaching the final in his
home city of Buenos Aires.