Defending champion Juan Martin del Potro continued his late charge in the Emirates ATP Race To London with a 6-2, 7-6(6) win against seventh seed Yuichi Sugita at the Intrum Stockholm Open on Friday evening.

“I just played good tennis in the tie-break,” del Potro said. “I found a way in the last point of the match and I got through in an important match and I’m glad to be in the semi-finals.”

The Shanghai Rolex Masters semi-finalist is now No. 16 in the Race with 1,975 points. Should he go on to advance to his first final since his last visit to Stockholm, he will climb to 15th, and then 14th should he defend his crown, which would bring his total to 2,135 points.

While that may seem far behind the eighth and final qualifying spot for the Nitto ATP Finals, No. 7 Stan Wawrinka and No. 10 Novak Djokovic have ended their seasons due to injury, and No. 13 Andy Murray has not played since The Championships, also due to injury. Del Potro would be 470 points behind No. 9 Pablo Carreno Busta.

Del Potro could have faced another potential London qualifier in second seed Kevin Anderson, but Fernando Verdasco stalled the US Open finalist’s bid with a 7-6(1), 7-6(1) victory.

“It’s a very tough tournament, even if it’s a 250, the draw is really tough,” Verdasco said of the Intrum Stockholm Open. “Today it was an important match for me, also because it was the first time [I would] reach the semi-finals [in Stockholm] if I win and also because the last couple of months, I was not finding my game.”

Verdasco had not reached a tour-level quarter-final since July in Bastad, when he lost in the semi-finals at the SkiStar Swedish Open against David Ferrer. As the Spaniard said, Sweden may just be his lucky charm. Both Verdasco and Anderson saved the single break point they each faced, but the left-hander controlled both tie-breaks with his aggressive forehand and overall baseline play.

Confronting del Potro in the semi-finals is not the luckiest draw, as the Argentine has proven to be in good form. However, Verdasco feels he is ready for the challenge, as he pursues his first title since last year’s BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest.

“Very happy. Tomorrow is also going to be a very tough match, a very tough opponent,” Verdasco said. “But I’m very motivated, and I think I am ready to fight and try to win.”



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