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.
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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