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Gaudio Comes Back to Beat Gonzalez

November 18, 2005

SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ Gaston Gaudio saved three match points before recovering to beat Fernando Gonzalez 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 Friday and advance to a Tennis Masters Cup semifinal against Roger Federer.

The 2004 French Open winner was a set and a break down, with Gonzalez serving for the match at 5-3 in the second in what loomed as an amazing run after being a late inclusion in the tournament.

But Gaudio got the break back when Gonzalez put too much into two forehands, going for winners on consecutive points. That’s when the momentum changed.

Gaudio saved three match points in the next, rallying from 15-40 during a four-game winning roll.

After trading breaks in the third set, Gaudio closed out in 2 hours, nine minutes when Gonzalez’ crosscourt forehand went wide.

Gonzalez’ all-or-nothing approach worked for the first 15 games as he hit winner after winner on or near the lines, but ultimately cost him as he made many of his 40 unforced errors on crucial points.

Gonzalez was only a game away from being the first alternate player to reach the semifinals at the season-ending event. Instead, he merely extended his losing stretch to four matches against Gaudio.

After failing to get a player in the semifinals of the year-end championships since Guillermo Vilas in 1982, Argentina now has two men in the last four.

David Nalbandian advanced Thursday with a straight-sets win over Ivan Ljubicic, placing second in the Red Group behind top-ranked Federer of Switzerland, the two-time defending champion.

Nalbandian faces Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko, who finished ahead of Gaudio in the Gold Group, in Saturday’s semifinals. Davydenko had his final round-robin match against Mariano Puerta later Friday.

Gonzalez was on vacation in Chile last week when TMC organizers called and asked if he could act as an alternate _ or reserve _ in Shanghai after a rash of injuries.

The 25-year-old Chilean got his chance to play after No. 5-ranked Andre Agassi lost to Davydenko on Monday and then retired from the eight-man tournament with an injured left ankle.

Gonzalez, who beat Puerta _ a replacement for second-ranked Rafael Nadal _ on Wednesday, finished 1-1 and collected an appearance fee and a win bonus.

Three years ago, Gonzalez made the long trip to Shanghai to act as an alternate at the Masters Cup and didn’t get a match. After his win Wednesday, he said he glad the 2002 experience didn’t deter him from making the 30-hour trip again

Federer, coming back from six weeks off due to an injured right ankle, is 3-0 here following his 6-0, 1-6, 6-2 win over sixth-ranked Guillermo Coria on Thursday.

He improved to 80-3 for the year and is two wins shy of John McEnroe’s Open era record (82-3) for best winning percentage in a season.

Federer is the only survivor among the top six ranked players in the tournament.

Nadal and Agassi withdrew Monday. No. 3 Andy Roddick, No. 4 Lleyton Hewitt and Australian Open champion Marat Safin pulled out before the tournament.

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