Fri, Apr 13, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Zabaleta ousts defending champ in Houston tourney


Argentine Mariano Zabaleta upset defending champion Mardy Fish of the US 7-5, 6-4 on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the US Clay Court Tennis Championships.

Zabaleta, who had to win two qualifying matches to get into the main draw, said he was "really focused" at the beginning of the second round match and is most comfortable on clay.

"I think I play maybe a little bit better on clay" than Fish, Zabaleta said. "I feel really good" about the win.

Fish, seeded fourth, agreed that Zabaleta holds the edge with him on slower surfaces.

"He's a great clay court player, someone you'd like to see his name next to yours at Wimbledon, but not on clay," Fish said. "I didn't play poorly. I gave myself chances and for whatever reason it didn't work out."

Zabaleta, ranked No. 156 in the world, now plays last year's runner-up, Jurgen Melzer of Austria, in the final eight today.

Fish had chances to take the second set. He had two break points to go up 5-3, but he hit two forehands long and Zabaleta won the game to level the set at 4-4.

The Argentine broke Fish in the next game and served out the match at love.

Earlier on Wednesday, Tommy Haas rallied from a set down to beat American Sam Querrey 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a first-round match.

The third-seeded German was down a break in the deciding set, but got it back in the seventh game and then broke the 19-year-old at love four games later to go up 6-5. Haas won the final 12 points of the match.

Haas struggled with Querrey's serve, which reached 225kph at one point. Haas won only 10 points of the American's 46 successful first serves, six of those points coming in the final set.

"He served huge at times where I didn't have much chance to do anything," Haas said. "I was way behind the baseline just trying to react and get the balls back."

Querrey closed out the first set with one of his 10 aces and then broke Haas at love in the first game of the second. But Haas broke right back and sealed the set on the second break point of the sixth game when Querrey hit a backhand long.

The world's No. 10 squandered five breakpoint chances in the first game of the third set and fell behind 3-1 when Querrey broke him in the fourth game.

In second-round matches earlier on Wednesday, fifth seed Melzer beat Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-4, 6-2, and Albert Montanes of Spain beat Serbian Dusan Vemic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

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