This was the pairs first meeting, but both players had enjoyed fine weeks so far at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. Muller currently leads the ATP with nine grass court victories in 2016 and reached the semifinals courtesy of a straight sets win over Alexandr Dolgopolov on Thursday. Meanwhile Cuevas has had quite the week, coming back from a set and a break down against Dan Evans and saving a match point against Marcos Baghdatis yesterday.
Muller makes a strong start
Both players came out looking strong on serve, but it was the Uruguayan who was under pressure first in the sixth game, facing break point after a strong return of serve from the Luxembourg native. The second seed snuffed out the chance with an ace and then hit another one to hold.
The eighth seed was down 0-30 on serve in the following game but responded to the adversity as his opponent had done so to move back in front. Sloppy unforced errors from Cuevas gifted Muller a crucial break of serve as he took a 5-3 lead.
Muller, a runner-up in s-Hertogenbosch and quarterfinalist at Queen’s, double faulted on his first set point, but then the second seed returned a backhand down the line return of serve wide to seal the first set for the eighth seed 6-3.
Incredibly close second set
Both players looked solid on serve in the second set as the games rattled by. In the seventh game the Uruguayan played some exquisite shots to get out of trouble from 15-30 down, Muller could do nothing but applaud as Cuevas ripped a backhand cross court winner and a drop volley winner on game point. Locked in at 4-4, Cuevas saved 3 break points, the first with an unreturned serve, the second with a forehand which landed right on the baseline and a third with a superb backhand cross court winner.
A further couple of service holds took us into a tiebreak, Cuevas’ fifth of the week (W4-L1). The Uruguayan earned the first mini break early on and held onto it throughout, with Muller double faulting on set point to hand it to the second seed 7-6(3).
The Uruguayan digs deep
Muller slumped to go 0-30 down on serve at the start of the final set, but then fired down three aces and another big first serve to take the next four points to hold. The Luxembourg native faced further pressure in his following service game as Cuevas gained two more break point chances. The Uruguayan missed the first with a lob which went long, before Muller put away a volley to save the second. A double fault then gave the second seed another opportunity, which he capitalized on after an error from Muller. The result of that pivotal break led to the eighth seed aggressively smashing his racket on court.
Cuevas was under pressure to consolidate the break, but came up with a forehand cross court winner under pressure at 30-30 before securing the hold to move 5-3 in front. Muller forced his opponent to serve for the match, but the plucky Uruguayan duly obliged, booking his place in the final on his second match point.