By Curt Janka
Los Angeles â€“ Although Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis was playing in his first ATP semifinal, he maintained his composure and elevated level of play to beat Marinko Matosevic 7-5, 6-1. With the win, Berankis reaches his first ATP final and is the first player from his country to do so.
Berankis was all smiles after his match. â€œItâ€™s really amazing,â€ he said. â€œI really didnâ€™t think of it before coming here. I mean, every athlete has to think of their best in the tournament, but the finalist? When you come to play qualies itâ€™s difficult to think of the final.â€
The match started out in a dead lock. The players had split their previous two meetings and through 10 games and neither could make a dent in the otherâ€™s serve. Serving at 5-5, Matosevic wavered and Berankis seized the opportunity. With the break in hand, Berankis quickly held to close out the first set.
Much like his match against Nicolas Mahut, Berankis started out the second set by grabbing the early break. From that point he never looked back. Matosevic had one look at a break when he got the first two points of the game with Berankis serving at 2-1. The frustration from not capitalizing on that opportunity seemed to break Matosevic as his opponent ran away with the rest of the match.
The coach who Berankis has been working with for 13 years, and who he calls a â€œsecond father,â€ flew into town today for the match. The coach left Lithuania yesterday for Washington, where they planned to meet after the tourney. Because things were going so well, they decided to get him on a flight at 6am this morning and he got to the tournament just 30 minutes before todayâ€™s match.
Berankis will play either Sam Querrey or Rajeev Ram in the final of The Farmers Classic.
Asked about his chances in the final, Berankis said â€œMy game is improving every day. Iâ€™m feeling great on the court at the moment and looking forward to tomorrow.â€ He added that he would be looking to attack any second serves he gets.
While 2011 saw 10 first-time winners on the ATP tour, this year players attempting to win their first title have gone 0-10 in finals. Berankis hopes to add the title to his list of first this week.
Along with the other accomplishments Berankis is stacking up, todayâ€™s win puts him in a tie for 2nd on the Emirates US Open Series Bonus Challenge standings with Gilles Muller. The winner of the final will be tied for first with Andy Roddick.