Tsonga stunned by Dutchman in Barcelona

BARCELONA: Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was denied a place in the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open as the third seed lost Friday to Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in a two-hour struggle.

Tsonga, bidding for the first clay title of his career, was unable to continue his reversal of momentum after coming back to win the second set.

The seed lost a third-set break, but got it back for 2-3 only to drop serve again against the former world number one junior who claimed his first Top-10 scalp with the upset of Tsonga. The Frenchman saved a match point in the penultimate game.

De Bakker will play Saturday against second seed Robin Soderling, who quietly dispatched Argentine Eduardo Schwank 6-2, 6-3.

"So far so good this week," said the Swedish winner. "It was tricky today with different conditions.

"It was quite cold and the balls are heavy but overall I played a good match. I served well, managing to win quite a few easy points on my first serve."

Spaniards have earned a popular confrontation at the top of the draw at the Real club in the absence of the resting Rafael Nadal.

Two-time runner-up David Ferrer moved to within one win of his third straight final in the Catalan capital, dispatching Brazil''s Thomaz Bellucci, 6-4, 6-0 in their quarter-final.

But standing in his way Saturday will be last week''s fifth-seeded Monte Carlo finalist, Fernando Verdasco, who booked his spot 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) over Latvian Ernests Gulbis.

"David is a top player, especially on clay," said Verdasco. "It will be good to have a Spanish semi-final and at least one of us will reach the final."

Eighth seed Ferrer played a match of two parts, struggling for an hour to win the opening set but mopping up in the second with three breaks of promising South American Bellucci ranked 33rd and a clay title-winner two months ago in Chile.

Ferrer will be playing in his fourth consecutive semi-final at the Real Club de Tenis - he has lost the last two finals to Rafael Nadal - when he faces his countryman.

"I prefer playing Fernando because he''s Spanish, though he''s beaten me four of our last five matches," said Ferrer.

"When I was little I came with my parents and I have dreamed many times of winning it. Playing at home makes you play more motivated."

Verdasco took two hours to go through past number 101 Gulbis, who had not lost a set through the week. But the Spaniard had to save six break points in the 11th game of the second set on the way to his win.