BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Santiago Giraldo of Colombia beat Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-3 to reach the Barcelona Open final on Saturday, as his Spanish rival suffered a letdown after ousting top-ranked Rafael Nadal.
Giraldo will face fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan after he beat Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-2, 6-4 in the other semifinal on the red outdoor clay.
Almagro slumped to his first loss in six meetings with Giraldo, a day after one of his biggest wins when he upset eight-time winner Nadal at the Real Club de Tenis.
“Yesterday’s game doesn’t serve as an excuse,” Almagro said. “Giraldo grazed perfection today, above all in the first set, and I couldn’t find the answer.”
The unseeded Giraldo will be playing for his first career title on Sunday after he saved six of seven break points and finished the match with an emphatic ace.
“I have always dreamed of reaching the top spots of the ATP ranking and tomorrow is a first step,” Giraldo said. “But I am staying calm. I will keep to my routine and tomorrow will be a day to enjoy and play the best tennis I can.”
Giraldo prevailed in a match that featured several long rallies by proving more precise with his long groundstrokes.
The first set was heading for a tiebreaker until Giraldo snatched it away by breaking Almagro’s last service game when he swatted a forehand return by the feet of the last year’s finalist.
Almagro got an early break in the second set, but Giraldo won it right back and took control as Almagro’s nerves frayed with the match slipping away.
“He believed more in his tennis, in how he had to play, and he barely made any mistakes,” Almagro said. “I committed errors when I could have gone in front. That was the key.”
Earlier, Nishikori’s faster movement overcame Gulbis’ big serve.
Down a set, ninth-seeded Gulbis saved seven break points in the second before finally ceding his serve and losing the match.
Nishikori will be seeking his second title of the season and fifth in his career.