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Venus, Pennetta into Acapulco final

TOP-SEEDED Venus Williams beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-0, 6-3 on Friday to reach the Mexican Open final in Acapulco.

Williams, who won her 40th career singles title in Dubai last week, will face defending champion Flavia Pennetta for the title.

Italian Pennetta reached her sixth consecutive final at the Mexican Open with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over 2004 champion Iveta Benesova.

"Six finals is incredible. I didn't expect it or hope for it," said Pennetta, who is trying to win her third Acapulco title in five years. "Every year I come just hoping to play good tennis and produce a little magic for myself."

The second-seeded Pennetta has surprisingly won three of her five career matches against Williams, including their only match on clay in the third round of last year's French Open.

Benesova beat Pennetta in the 2004 final but the Italian served better on Friday, and created more chances than Benesova could produce.

Pennetta claimed four of eight break points and lost her serve only once to the fourth-seeded Czech.

Pennetta, who improved her Acapulco record to 28-4, won the title in 2005 and 2008.

"I am more famous here than in Italy, this is like my second home," she said.

Nicolas Almagro of Spain also will get to defend his title in the men's final. He defeated unseeded Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina 6-4, 6-4. Fourth-seeded Almagro will play for his fifth career title against second-seeded Gael Monfils of France, who beat Argentine fifth-seed Jose Acasuso 6-3, 6-4.

At Delray Beach, Florida, American Mardy Fish moved one step closer to becoming the first top-seed ever to win the Delray Beach International on Friday, prevailing in a tight match over Frenchman Florent Serra 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4).

Fish, who dropped just six points on serve, thrived in both tiebreaks of a close contest to reach the semifinals as he bids for a third career ATP title.

Serra countered his big-serving opponent by recording nine aces and locating 70 percent of his first serves, although Fish matched the Frenchman's ace count and won a commanding 85 percent of his first serve points to move on.

Five top seeds have reached the final since this event began in 1993 and none has ever claimed the title, but Fish is the only of the semifinalists to have captured an ATP World Tour title.

In the semifinals, Fish will face seventh-seed Jeremy Chardy after the Frenchman advanced with a 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) victory over Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.

Belgium's Christophe Rochus reached his first semifinal since 2006 by defeating Stefan Koubek of Austria 6-3, 7-6 (7) and he will play Russian Evgeny Korolev, who beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-2, 6-2.


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