• Muller, Ljubicic battle for final spot in Metz

    9/23/11 9:25 PM | Ricky Dimon
    Muller, Ljubicic battle for final spot in Metz An all-seeded showdown between Gilles Muller and Ivan Ljubicic is set for Saturday in Metz. The two veterans are vying for a place in the title match.

    Gilles Muller and Ivan Ljubicic will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers when they clash in the semis of the Moselle Open on Saturday. Ljubicic won their only previous encounter 6-1, 6-3 in the Chennai quarterfinals back in 2006.

    Five years later, Ljubicic finally appears to be slowing down at 32 years old. The veteran Croat still registers at a solid 29th in the world, but he was just 18-15 for the season heading into Metz. Ljubicic played only three matches post-Wimbledon prior to this week, losing his Umag opener and falling to David Nalbandian in the U.S. Open second round. So far in Metz, however, Ljubicic has taken out Nicolas Renavand and Igor Sijsling--both in straight sets.

    Muller, of course, is a much different kind of opponent (Renavand is ranked No. 364 and Sijsling is 148th). The 49th-ranked Luxembourgian once again heated up in New York, where he has excelled throughout his career. He advanced to the fourth round at the year's final Grand Slam before succumbing to Rafael Nadal. Muller has extended his 2011 mark to 16-8 with straight-set victories this week over Philipp Petzschner, Benoit Paire, and No. 2 seed Richard Gasquet.

    This should be a serving battle on an indoor hard court, and both men are tough to break; Ljubicic has not been broken yet this week while Muller has dropped serve only once in three matches.

    Ljubicic may be a slight favorite on paper as the tournament's fourth seed, but current form clearly favors Muller. Look for Muller to display more confidence at the crucial moments, paving the way to a three-set triumph for the No. 8 seed.

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