By Lucia Hoffman
SAO PAULO, Brazil – Defending Brazil Open champion Nicolas Almagro needed three sets to advance to the quarterfinals of the Brazil Open by taking out Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 on Thursday in the Ibirapuera sporting complex.
Almagro feels the difference between the indoor courts in Sao Paulo and the outdoor courts in Costa do Sauipe where the tournament was held until last year, is the heat, light, and level of humidity. He finds the Brazil Open a “very charming and beautiful event” and he hopes to get to the finals.
Regarding his opponent Hanescu, he laughed when asked about the Romanian’s poker face when playing matches. He said it’s very difficult to read Hanescu’s emotions during the match as he is always very focused.
Almagro was very happy with the way he served against Hanuescu and said that one of the techniques he uses when serving is to choose a point and hit as hard as he can. His serve is a big weapon which sets up a dangerous forehand always ready to attack. And Nicolas is also a patient man out there, making his opponent try a different game plan to break down his solid groundstrokes. Hanuescu did try at times, drop shots, slices and it paid off for him, winning the second set.
Almagro blamed his lack of concentration for losing the second set in the tiebreak 7-4, but was able to focus again in the third set and beat a very focused Hanescu.
With the carnival celebrations and parties happening over the weekend, Almagro said that unfortunately the busy ATP schedule will not allow him to participate, “even if samba is good for foot working skills.” He is going to Buenos Aires next, then to Indian wells and Miami.
Almagro came into the tournament as a wild card to try and defend his title as he was not certain he’s play due his Davis Cup commitment.
Fernando Verdasco, playing in his first match since losing his first round match at the Australian Open to Bernard Tomic struggled in a 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-6 win over fellow Spaniard and wild card Javier Marti.
Verdasco seemed unfocused at the end of second set, and made many unforced errors, helping Marti to hold easily and then dominate tie breaker.
Verdasco used his experience to beat young Marti who out played Verdasco for most of the match. Fernando did start focusing better at end of third set, down 2-5. Verdasco found his forehand again, became patient and forced Marti to try to rise to the occasion, which he did not. Verdasco took the next five games and the match.
Verdasco mentioned to media that he will be playing Davis Cup in the future and that he never said that he would no longer play.
David Nalbandian made quick work of second seed Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-2 in sixty-eight minutes. Simon’s poor serving gave Nalbandian many opportunities to break, which he did four times.
Eighth seed Albert Ramos of Spain knocked out Igor Andreev of Russia 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4). Ramos played a very smart, intense baseline game, with powerful groundstrokes, with killing forehand drives that proved too much for Andreev.
Fifth seed Carlos Berlocq of Argentina defeated Potito Starace of Italy 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Starace seemed little slower in the third set, and Berloq kept balls deep, trying to move his Italian opponent around.
Brazilian No. 1 Thomaz Bellucci will face Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the night match on Friday for a spot in the semifinals.
“Bellucci is an aggressive player like me, then the tendency is to take advantage of one who is able to impose its rhythm before,” said Mayer.”It will be nice to play with the crowd excited. I hope we can give a good show.”
Lucia Hoffman is in Sao Paulo covering the Brasil Open for Tennis Panorama News.
ATP World Tour 250
Sao Paulo, Brazil (-2 hours GMT)
13-19 February, 2012 Surface: Indoor Clay
RESULTS – THURSDAY, 16 FEBRUARY, 2012
Singles – Second Round
 [WC] N Almagro (ESP) d V Hanescu (ROU) 63 67(4) 63
D Nalbandian (ARG) d  G Simon (FRA) 63 62
 F Verdasco (ESP) d [WC] J Marti (ESP) 64 67(2) 75
 C Berlocq (ARG) d P Starace (ITA) 36 62 63
 A Ramos (ESP) d [Q] I Andreev (RUS) 76(4) 76(4)
L Mayer (ARG) d [Q] J Chardy (FRA) 46 75 62
F Volandri (ITA) d [Q] R Ramirez Hidalgo (ESP) 64 16 63
Doubles – Quarter-finals
 E Butorac (USA) / B Soares (BRA) d T Bellucci (BRA) / M Melo (BRA) 75 63
 M Mertinak (SVK) / A Sa (BRA) d D Gimeno-Traver (ESP) / F Volandri (ITA) 62 61
Doubles – First Round
 J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) d S Giraldo (COL) / B Paire (FRA) 76(4) 61
R Mello (BRA) / J Souza (BRA) d D Marrero (ESP) / P Riba (ESP) 67(3) 75 11-9
SCHEDULE – FRIDAY, 17 FEBRUARY, 2012
CENTRE COURT start 12:00 noon
 [WC] N Almagro (ESP) vs  C Berlocq (ARG)
 F Verdasco (ESP) vs  A Ramos (ESP)
Not Before 4:30 PM
R Mello (BRA) / J Souza (BRA) vs  D Bracciali (ITA) / P Starace (ITA)
Not Before 7:00 PM
F Volandri (ITA) vs D Nalbandian (ARG)
L Mayer (ARG) vs  T Bellucci (BRA)
COURT 1 not before 4:00 PM
 J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) vs J Chardy (FRA) / G Simon (FRA) – Possible Suitable Rest