Melzer downs Stepanek in 3 sets in Memphis semi

TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer Published:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Austrian Jurgen Melzer continued his amazing run with a broken right big toe by beating Radek Stepanek 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 Saturday in the semifinals of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships.

Melzer ousted top seed John Isner in straight sets to reach the semifinals. With his win over Stepanek, Melzer reached his fourth final in the United States and first since 2007 when he lost in Las Vegas to Lleyton Hewitt.

"Well, it's obviously very satisfying," Melzer said.

"I've played a great tournament so far, and reaching that final is something special. I haven't played a final since 2010. It was a tough match today. I mean he's obviously a tricky player. He knows what to do on the court, very offensive at times, just takes back a little bit the speed of his stroke. I had to stay focused. I had to play my game."

Melzer will meet Milos Raonic of Canada or Benjamin Becker of Germany, who play later Saturday. Raonic won last week at San Jose.

On the women's side, Marina Erakovic of New Zealand and Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden are set to play Saturday night in the Memphis International final.

Melzer helped Austria advance past Russia in the first round of Davis Cup two weeks ago and came to Memphis early. He broke his toe when he got caught in a hotel bedspread Feb. 16. Melzer has been icing the toe after each match, and he said the injury only bothers him now when he sprints and stops.

"But the good thing is most of my sliding I do on hard court I do with my left foot so it doesn't ... affect my game," Melzer said.

He improved to 8-3 this year and came to Memphis 38th in the world after back troubles knocked him down after he reached his career-best No. 8 ranking last spring. He opened this year with consecutive first-round losses in Brisbane and the Australian Open before qualifying in Zagreb and reaching the quarterfinals.

Now Melzer is in his 11th career ATP World Tour final and first since 2010 when he won his third career title at Vienna and also reached the final at Hamburg. Melzer also lost a semifinal that year to Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

He did it by remaining undefeated against Stepanek, though this was their first match that went three sets. Melzer broke Stepanek in the seventh game of the first set when the Czech double-faulted at deuce and when Melzer had the advantage, putting the Austrian up 4-3. Melzer then served out for the first set.

"When you lose a match like that you know you have your chances," said Stepanek, who only decided to play in Memphis on Tuesday after being ill. "I gave him a Christmas gift in the first set. You know it was a very poor service game of mine, and yeah, we don't play if something would be different. But the match went that way."

Stepanek was playing in his third semifinal in Memphis where he is 12-4. He broke Melzer to go up 4-2 in the second set and fought off two break points to hold serve and even the match.

"So it was not only that chance, it was a question of losing my serve not making his because if I would hold my serve as I had to then I would never get to this trouble," Stepanek said. "But that's the way the match went. I gave him too many easy balls, easy points, and that's what in the end made the difference."

The third set featured three straight service breaks with Melzer getting the first and the last. Melzer then had to rally from break point himself down 0-40 to go up 5-2 before serving out for the win.

"Being love-40 down would be tough to come down from that," Melzer said. "Played a great service game to hold him, and I think the way I served out was impressive."