Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Federer and Murray fight to reach semis

AFP , TORONTOAFP, LOS ANGELES

Bethanie Mattek reacts after losing a point during her quater-final match against Elena Dementieva of Russia in Carson, California, on Friday. Dementieva won 4-6 6-1 6-1.

PHOTO: AP

World number one Roger Federer and British teen Andy Murray outlasted rivals over three sets on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the US$2.5 million ATP Masters Series tournament.

Swiss star Federer dispatched Belgian Xavier Malisse 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, winning his 16th match in a row to book a Saturday date with Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, who ousted Argentina's Jose Acasuso 6-1, 7-5.

"When it was 5-5 in the first set before I had my first break point, I said to myself, `OK, it's going to be a tough night,'" Federer said. "But I won the deciding game and after that there was never any doubt."

Federer, who has won 52 North American hardcourt matches in a row, needed two hours and 27 minutes to reach his matchup with Gonzalez, who improved to 29-15 this year with an 80-minute triumph.

Murray continued to struggle with closing out opponents in beating Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 6-4, 6-7 (0/7), 6-3. He will try to reach the final by beating France's Richard Gasquet, who ousted Czech Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-1.

The 19-year-old Scotsman, in his second event since joining with new coach Brad Gilbert, needed two hours and 27 minutes to advance.

Gilbert has guided Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi to Grand Slam triumphs and the world number one ranking, adding to the pressure upon Murray, who reached last week's Washington final but who has faltered several times in second sets.

Closing out foes easier is among the items Gilbert intends to work on with Murray, although most of that will come after the US Open as neither want to make changes before the year's final Grand Slam event.

Gasquet, who has already won ATP titles this year at Nottingham and Gstaad, took his first set in 35 minutes when the Czech sent a backhand long.

In the second set, Gasquet disrupted Berdych's rhythm as he failed to reproduce the form that ousted French Open winner Rafael Nadal, the defending Canada Masters Series champion, in the previous round.

The 20-year-old Frenchman, ranked 51st in the world, went on to win in 65 minutes.

Top-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova avenged a French Open fourth-round defeat with a straight-set win over compatriot Dinara Safina on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the US$600,000 WTA tournament here.

Sharapova, seeking to keep the momentum going after her WTA triumph in San Diego last week, defeated the fifth-seeded Safina 6-2, 6-4, saving two break points in the final game before firing a service winner on match point.

She set up a meeting with another fellow Russian, third-seeded Elena Dementieva, who survived 14 double faults to beat US wildcard Bethanie Mattek 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.

Sharapova owns a 5-1 record over Dementieva, including a triumph in the Indian Wells final in March and a quarter-final victory at Wimbledon.

Dementieva admitted she would have her work cut out in the semi-finals.

"She's very focused," Dementieva said of Sharapova. "It's all about her concentration. She plays every ball like it's the last one."

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams also reached the final four, rallying for a 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-4 victory over fellow American Meghann Shaughnessy.

Williams will meet Jelena Jankovic, who beat fellow Serbian Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).

Sharapova, who had let slip a 5-1 third-set lead against Safina at Roland Garros in June, has now reached the final four without dropping a set.

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