As a wild card qualifier, Daniel Galan has already played more tennis than anyone remaining in contention at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships. And because of rain on Friday night, Galan needs to win two matches on Saturday if he hopes to reach his first career ATP final.
But first thing's first—reach his first career ATP semifinal. Which is just what Galan did early Saturday afternoon. Tied at 3-3, 15-15 with Jordan Thompson before play was postponed, the 22-year-old Colombian won three of the last four games to complete a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 victory.
Galan, who has already ousted top seed and two-time defending champion Steve Johnson in the round of 16, will face 20-year-old Casper Rudd once Saturday's first semifinal—between Sam Querrey and Christian Garin—is complete.
If Galan is to reach his first ATP semifinal, final and winner's circle all in the same week, he'll need to win seven matches, the same amount required to win a Grand Slam. No one will confuse this red-clay event with the one starting two months from now in Paris, but it's a major effort nonetheless—and perhaps a fitting way to kick off the men's road to Roland Garros.
UPDATE: The last American from the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships has been eliminated, with Sam Querrey falling to Christian Garin, 7-6 (2), 6-2.
The 22-year-old Chilean upset No. 2 seed Jeremy Chardy on Wednesday, and he could face another 22-year-old South American on Sunday, should Galan win his second match of the day.
Here's Garin's match point conversion, against Querrey. Garin is now into his second ATP final of the season; he finished runner-up at the Sao Paulo Open:
"The ball was really heavy, and I think that was much better for me," Garin told Tennis Channel afterward. "I think the conditions were better for me today."
Here's his entire post-match interview:
UPDATE: Daniel Galan's run in Houston is over after six matches. From the Associated Press:
HOUSTON (AP) — Trying to become the first Norwegian champion in ATP World Tour history, Casper Ruud beat qualifier Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia 7-5, 6-2 on Saturday to reach the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship.
The 20-year-old Ruud will face Christian Garin of Chile. The 22-year Garin beat American Sam Querrey 7-6 (2), 6-2.
Ruud's father, Christian, won the River Oaks International exhibition tournament on these grounds in 1996. Christian Ruud, who was in the stands Saturday, was the last player from Norway to make an ATP final, at Bastad, Sweden, in 1995.
"It's an amazing feeling to be in your first final. It's what we work hard for," Ruud said. "But even though it's been an amazing week, I'm hungry to win the last match."
Garin also is seeking his first tour title.
Ruud overcame a 5-2 first-set deficit, requiring assistance from a trainer for neck discomfort early in the match.
Garin was a first-time finalist in Sao Paolo last month, beating Ruud in the semifinals.
"He's the favorite," Ruud said. "He's been in a final before."
Galan completed his rain-interrupted quarterfinal match against Australian Jordan Thompson on Saturday, winning 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.
There was a 1 1/2-hour delay between the two semifinals when another downpour drenched the court.