Philipp Kohlschreiber got off to a very solid start in his semifinal match at the Mercedes Cup before rain suspended play in Stuttgart. After the intermission, the German returned to close out the match against Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro and claim a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
In before the rain
Kohlschreiber began the match with patented play. He used the forehand to open the court and push del Potro around and land shots that the world number 223 had great difficulty getting to. On one occasion in that set, Kohlschreiber would send a forehand return across the net and, with his opponent off balance, tossed a backhand shot across the court to win the point.
Most impressive of all, the German sustained very long rallies from the baseline and then turned them into winners, often with slices from his backhand or forehand shots that spun into the grass. Kohlschreiber would claim two breaks the first set, including the longest game of the match, a back and forth affair that to end the set. He would win it 6-3.
Giving the fans something to cheer about
The second set began with both men holding serve, but rain suspended play for several hours. A long suspension was of significant concern for del Potro. The Argentinian is making his return from a significant wrist injury and there was worry about how his wrist would hold up under prolonged play. After a quick hold by Kohlschreiber, del Potro put those worries to bed with several strong serves in the sixth game of the match. He didn't drop a single game, evening the set at 3-3.
A particularly interesting point came in the ninth game of the set. Kohlschreiber, who had only faced one break point in the match to that point, was down 15-30 and was in danger of del Potro creating another chance. The Argentinian met his German counterpart at his own game with baseline rallies. The point saw both men fire shots across the net before Kohlschreiber moved into the mid-court and took a shot in the air, sending it skidding to the sideline. After some confusion, the ball was called in, though the world number 26 appeared to think he had missed it. After del Potro challenged, replay showed the linesman had made the correct call. Kohlschreiber ended the game with a powerful backhand on yet another grinding rally.
The subsequent game was a very sloppy one for del Potro. After sending one shot into the net, his forehand went wide. He also failed to land a first serve on more than one occasion and his wrist didn't appear strong enough to add much firepower on the second serve. Before the audience could blink, Kohlschreiber had two break chances. But the Argentinian erased both, finally landing a strong first serve for an ace and adding a quick approach that forced an error into the net by Kohlschreiber. Still, the German was undeterred. With raindrops falling, he created yet another break. With advantage, he watched as del Potro sailed another shot.
The German pumped both fists in celebration with a crowd full of adoring fans. He now moves on to face Dominic Thiem in the final.