Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kukushkin eyes history vs. Baghdatis in Aptos final

   If Mikhail Kukushkin is going to make history today in Aptos, he'll have to beat a formidable opponent.
   Kukushkin will try to become the first No. 1 seed in the 27-year history of the $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger to win the singles title.
   Standing in his way is No. 2 seed Marcos Baghdatis, the runner-up to Roger Federer in the 2006 Australian Open. Baghdatis ascended to a career-high No. 8 in the world later that year and was the only player to beat Federer and Rafael Nadal while they were No. 1 in 2010.
    Kukushkin, 26, of Kazakhstan and Baghdatis, a 29-year-old Cypriot, reached the final with straight-set victories on Saturday at the Seascape Sports Club.
   Kukushkin dismissed unseeded Rhyne Williams of Boca Raton, Fla., 6-2, 6-2, and Baghdatis eliminated fourth-seeded Go Soeda of Japan 6-4, 6-2.
   It was the ninth consecutive victory for Baghdatis, who won last week's $100,000 Vancouver Challenger. He will face Kukushkin for the first time.
   Kukushkin, though ranked 55th to Baghdatis' 106th, is the far less accomplished player. His best Grand Slam result is a fourth-round appearance in the 2012 Australian Open, and his career-high ranking, which he reached last month, is No. 48.
   Both players are rebounding from injuries. Kukushkin underwent surgery on both hips in late 2012. Baghdatis, a right-hander, was sidelined for six weeks with a right shoulder injury last season and retired from a match in June because of the shoulder. He said this week that it's still not 100 percent.
$100,000 COMERICA BANK CHALLENGER
At Seascape Sports Club in Aptos
Singles semifinals
   Mikhail Kukushkin (1), Kazakhstan, def. Rhyne Williams, United States, 6-2, 6-2.
   Marcos Baghdatis (2), Cyprus, def. Go Soeda (4), Japan, 6-4, 6-2.
Doubles semifinals
   Purav Raja and Sanam Singh (4), India, def. Austin Krajicek, United States, and John-Patrick Smith (1), Australia, 5-7, 7-5 [11-9].
   Ruben Bemelmans, Belgium, and Laurynas Grigelis, Lithuania, def. Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak (3), New Zealand, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Today's schedule
Center Court
(Starting at 1 p.m.)
   Purav Raja and Sanam Singh (4), India, vs. Ruben Bemelmans, Belgium, and Laurynas Grigelis, Lithuania.
   Mikhail Kukushkin (1), Kazakhstan, vs. Marcos Baghdatis (2), Cyprus.

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