By Matthew Cronin
SAN JOSE, FEB. (Reuters) - Defending champion Fernando Verdasco ended Juan Martin del Potro's hopes of reaching a first final following a long injury layoff with a 6-4 6-4 victory in the semi-finals of the San Jose Open on Saturday.
While Del Potro showed flashes of his grand slam-winning form, his groundstrokes often lacked depth and he was unable to do much damage when returning serve.
For his part, top seed Verdasco dominated much of the action with his huge forehand, excellent court coverage and solid service returns.
"Everything worked," Verdasco told reporters. "I served well, moved well, and my forehand worked well in the moments that I needed it. I don't make many winners with my backhand, but it was solid.
"I needed to play well because I watched Juan Martin beat (Lleyton) Hewitt yesterday and he was playing so good. That woke me in the sense that I needed to go out and play my best."
The 27-year-old Spaniard broke Del Potro in the opening game and never looked back, winning the set with a hooking serve and crosscourt forehand winner.
Verdasco, who has only been broken twice in four matches, then served out the match at love, winning it with a 107mph ace to the corner.
"He played better, served well and took his opportunities," Del Potro admitted. "When you play a little under your level, your opponent takes the game and difficult to come back."
Verdasco will play young Canadian sensation Milos Raonic in the final. The 20-year-old Raonic advanced without playing when French second seed Gael Monfils withdrew before their semi-final with a wrist injury.
"I practiced with him twice before the Australian Open and I knew he was going to do well," Verdasco said of Raonic, who reached the fourth round in Melbourne.
"He has the game to do it, one of the biggest serves and he's aggressive from the baseline and he just doesn't care who he's playing. For sure he's going to be a top player very soon."
(Editing by John O'Brien)