After a shaky start, David Ferrer's pursuit of a third-straight and record fourth overall Auckland men's open tennis title is back on track.
Ferrer breezed through his Heineken Open quarter-final against Lukas Lacko 6-2, 6-1 in just 54 minutes yesterday. The light work out would have been just what the physiotherapist ordered after Ferrer's gruelling three-setter against Yen-Hsun Lu on Wednesday night.
Ferrer was badly out of sorts against the Taiwanese, although the Spaniard implied he had just as much trouble with the speedy Stanley Street surface as his dogged opponent.
Yesterday, however, the world No 5 was well and truly dialled in, breaking the Slovakian Lacko's service early in both sets and then pretty much putting it auto pilot from there.
"The first round, it was difficult to play good," Ferrer said.
"It was a surprise with the court being fast. [Yesterday] I know that. I try to improve my game and have more focus. I was more convinced with my game today."
So were those watching. On the evidence of his first hit out it was hard to see Ferrer negotiating a top half of the draw that included former world No 2 Tommy Haas, and Gael Monfils, the enigmatic Frenchman who has proved the wildest of wildcards.
Ferrer put his early woobles down to the increased pace of the court, an issue that had caught many players by surprise. However once he adjusted it wasn't a problem for Ferrer, who like many Europeans is most comfortable on clay.
"I don't have any problem to play on fast courts," he said. "I have to adapt to these type of courts."
With the winner of last night's final quarter-final Monfils standing in his way, followed by a possible assignment either Sam Querrey or Philipp Kohlschreiber, Ferrer's road to another title now gets considerably tougher.
Ferrer will have his hands full with Monfils. The Frenchman is a truly gifted athlete whose penchant for clowning about is, for now at least, waging a war with his obvious desire to get his injury-affected ranking back up from a lowly 99.
Both Querrey and Kohlschreiber advanced to their semifinals in straight sets.
Querrey beat Canadian qualifier Jesse Levine 6-4, 7-6, while Kohlschreiber accounted for Belgian journeyman Xavier Malisse 7-6 6-4.
Centre Court start midday
• 1-C Fleming (GBR) / B Soares (BRA) v 3-J Knowle (AUT) / F Polasek (SVK)
• 4-S Querrey (USA) v 2-P Kohlschreiber (GER)
• 1-D Ferrer (ESP) v WC-G Monfils (FRA)
• J Brunstrom (SWE) / F Nielsen (DEN) or J Janowicz (POL) / A Ramos (ESP) v F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK)