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TENNIS: Top seed cruises into Challenger final

Top seed Goichi Motomura cruised into the final of the US$25,000 Challenger Tennis Event in Hamilton after a commanding straight sets win over third seed Barry Cowan of Great Britain in a display of precise hitting and placement.

Motomura will play unseeded American Michael Joyce, who also scored an easy win in his semifinal and will have to be at the top of his game to beat the Japanese player.

Motomura's speed around the court was matched by the speed of the win, which lasted only 53 minutes as Cowan couldn't find an answer to the depth of the Japanese player's groundstrokes.

It took Cowan six games before he got on the scoreboard, and even then Motomura was still able to close out the first set 6-1 and eventually take the second set and the match 6-3.

After finding himself a finalist in four events last year, Motomura has one of his best chances to take out a singles title, as he is now serving well and appears to have plenty of shots and determination in reserve.

"Maybe I can win a tournament now. I think I am playing well and enjoy the surface. It suits my game. I don't really think about the opposition, I just try and play my game," he said.

Motomura has still to drop a set in any of his four matches. His worst scoreline was a 6-1 6-4 win over wildcard James Greenhalgh in the quarterfinals.

The event is the first challenger tournament to be held in New Zealand for five years and is also proving a bonus for 27-year-old Michael Joyce.

He had a real purple patch in the mid to late 1990s, making an impact in the top 100 and scoring wins over Jim Courier, Marc Rosset and Jonas Bjorkman.

Joyce can now claim the Hamilton event as another good period in his career, marking his first time in a singles main draw in 2000 and has shown real improvement with each match.

Coming into the draw with an entry ranking of 297, Joyce was in control of all aspects of his 6-2 6-3 semifinal win over fourth seed Neville Godwin, while the South African had an off day with his serve, including four double faults in a long seventh game of the second set.

"I feel good, it was a good match today for me. Neville was not on top of his game. I think it was in my favour to build up slowly with each round, Neville had an easy run through the tournament and that didn't really help him today," said Joyce.

Joyce has lost only one set in the tournament, beating eighth seed Paul Kilderry in the first round in three sets before destroying Australian Lee Pearson for the loss of two games and then Justin Layne in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

Joyce will be hoping to use his skill of holding the ball late on his shots to out-think his 146th-ranked opponent in what could be a clash of different styles. Motomura will try and use his big serve which earnt him six aces in his semifinal and his pace to blast the American off the court.

RESULTS
Michael Joyce(USA) bt 4-Neville Godwin(RSA) 6/2 6/3
1-Goichi Motomura(JPN) bt 3-Barry Cowan(USA) 6/1 6/3
Doubles semifinals
1-Neville Godwin(RSA)/Michael Hill(AUS) bt 4-Barry Cowan(GBR)/Dejan Petrovic(AUS) 6/3 6/3
3-Michael Joyce(USA)/Jim Thomas(USA) bt 2-Paul Kilderry(AUS)/Grant Silcock(AUS) 6/4 6/2

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