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It's Gulbis vs. Roger-Vasselin in the Delray ITC finals

Ernests Gulbis reaches for a shot in his match Saturday against Tommy Haas.Ernests Gulbis reaches for a shot in his match Saturday against Tommy Haas.

By Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — It is as an unlikely a match-up as anyone might possibly conceive for the finals of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships Sunday afternoon. The tennis equivalent of a Pittsburgh Pirates-Kansas City Royals World Series.

Ernests Gulbis of Latvia beat second-seed Tommy Haas of Germany 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2) Saturday afternoon to earn his spot in the finals, while Edouard Rogers-Vasselin upset top seeded John Isner 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 for his.

Gulbis, who won the tournament in 2010, came into Delray ranked 109th in the world. He had to survive three qualifying matches just to get the main draw, then had to win three more matches, two against seeded players.

Roger-Vasselin, ranked 105th in the world, wouldn’t have even appeared in Delray if it wasn’t for some last minute dropouts that left a hole in the main draw. Saturday against Isner was his first career appearance in a semifinals match.

“It’s a strange feeling,” Roger-Vasselin said. “I was not supposed to be here and I could not imagine being in the finals. Friday at 5 o’clock I was still France.”

Roger-Vasselin played a clean game against Insner, making few mistakes. He broke Isner’s serve in the opening game of the first set — his only break — but didn’t allow Isner to break back.

Isner had 21 aces in the match, and in one sequence, facing triple break point, hit five straight to win the game.

But Roger-Vasselin said the key was to be aggressive on Isner’s second serve.

“He’s very tall and it’s tough to make passing shots on him, so I decided to go straight to his body,” Roger-Vasselin said.

Said Isner, “I’m not going to win many matches when I serve like I did tonight. Credit to him. He played well.”

Earlier in the day, Gulbis had to overcome himself as much as Haas in order to win his match. “Honestly, I didn’t play that well,” Gulbis said. “I just kept fighting.”

The epitome of that came in the third set. Neither player could break the other, and it became apparent that one mistake could cost either the match. Haas twice had triple break point against Gulbis but both times the Latvian managed to pull his game back together in time to save service.

“You just play on reflex,” Gulbis said. “The less thoughts in your head, the better you play. Those moments you don’t think; you react.”

Haas agreed that those two games were the key to the match.

“I put myself in position to win,” Haas said. “I just didn’t do it. He came up with big shots at big times.”

Swirling winds that hit as high as 22 mph were a factor during the first two sets, but less so in the third. Both players said the wind made it difficult to play the lines.

NOTES: The American team of James Blake and Jack Sock will play Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau in the doubles final at 1 p.m. … The singles final will begin not before 3 p.m.

Edouard Roger-VasselinEdouard Roger-Vasselin played an aggressive game Saturday to upset top-seed John Isner at the Delray Beach ITC.



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