Auckland SF previews and predictions: Del Potro vs. Ferrer, Bautista Agut vs. Haase

A blockbuster semifinal matchup in Auckland on Friday pits Juan Martin Del Potro against fellow former tournament champion David Ferrer. Roberto Bautista Agut and Robin Haase are also aiming for a place in the championship match.

(7) David Ferrer vs. (2) Juan Martin Del Potro

Del Potro and Ferrer will be squaring off for the 11th time in their careers when they meet again in the semifinals of the ASB Classic on Friday night. Ferrer is leading the head-to-head series 6-4, but he has not defeated Del Potro since 2012 and the Argentine has won each of their last two encounters (both at Grand Slams) in straight sets. The two veterans most recently faced each other at the 2016 U.S. Open, where Del Potro got the job done 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-3.

Both players are kicking off their 2018 campaigns in fine form in Auckland, which comes as no surprise. After all, Del Potro is 6-1 lifetime at this event with a title in 2009; Ferrer is an awesome 31-8 with four titles. The 29-year-old Argentine also wrapped up 2017 with an outstanding fall swing, which put him within one match victory of a berth in the Nitto ATP Finals before he ultimately fell short. Del Potro has advanced this week without facing a single break point in straight-set defeats of Denis Shapovalov and Karen Khachanov, while Ferrer has also cruised in straights at the expense of Yibing Wu, Joao Sousa, and Hyeon Chung. When the 35-year-old Spaniard is playing with this kind of confidence, the only way to beat him is to hit him off the court with immense power. That is exactly what Del Potro is capable of doing.

Pick: Del Potro in 2

Robin Haase vs. (5) Roberto Bautista Agut

Also a former champion of this tournament (2016), Bautista Agut has bounced back nicely from a surprising second-round loss in Pune to eventual winner Gilles Simon. The fifth-seeded Spaniard earned his spot in the Auckland semifinals by taking out Michael Venus, Steve Johnson, and Jiri Vesely, surrendering just one set to Johnson in the process.
Up next for Bautista Agut on Friday is a second career showdown against Haase, who won their only previous encounter 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 on the clay courts of Casablanca in 2013. Bautista Agut, of course, is a totally different player at this point in his career; Haase, on the other hand, has plateaued and remains basically the same player he was five years ago. The 43rd-ranked Dutchman has advanced this week with victories over Casper Ruud, Lukas Lacko, and Peter Gojowycz. A considerable step up in competition level will likely send Haase on his way to Melbourne.

Pick: Bautista Agut in 2

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