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Monaco steps out of the shadows in Miami

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Originally published on: 30/03/12 10:13

Mention ‘that Argentine from Tandil’ and most tennis brains will jump straight to Juan Martin del Potro, the world No.11 who paraded through his hometown atop a fire truck after winning the US Open two and a half years ago.

This week in Miami, however, it’s the other Tandil-born star, Juan Monaco, who’s playing as if he’s Argentina’s favourite. While del Porto fell at the hands of David Ferrer in round four, Monaco has scored big-name scalps over Gael Monfils, Andy Roddick and now Mardy Fish to reach his second career Masters 1000 semi-final on the day he turned 28.

“It was unbelievable,” said Monaco of the emphatic 6-1 6-3 win that saw him match his semi-final effort at the Shanghai Rolex Masters in 2010. “I think this is the way to celebrate my birthday. [I] feel proud and very happy to be here on my birthday.”

The vanquished Fish may not have been on the greatest run of form ahead of the tournament – he had lost four of his eight matches prior to his quarter-final run at Crandon Park – but the 30-year-old American gave credit where credit was due.

“He did a lot of things well today,” said the world No.8. “I think more than anything else he shrunk the court extremely well with his movement, and that’s why I think you saw a ton of errors from me.”

Monaco, who won his fourth ATP title in February with victory in Vina del Mar, ranked as high as No.14 in February 2008. The world No.21 will creep back towards that career-best effort after the Sony Ericsson Open when the tour moves on to his favoured clay. He’ll target an improved showing at the French Open this summer, having reached the fourth round once previously, in 2007. Before that, there’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic to think about as he targets a maiden Masters 1000 final appearance. Despite four defeats in as many encounters with the Belgrade native, Monaco is confident he’s better prepared than ever for the bout.

“I’m feeling great, playing well,” he said.

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