Fri, Jul 20, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Safin, Kiefer through to quarter-finals

AP , LOS ANGELESAFP, STUTTGART, GERMANYAP, MASON, OHIOAP, PALERMO, ITALY

Marat Safin of Russia stretches out to return a shot to George Bastl of Switzerland during the Countrywide Classic on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles, California, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: EPA

Marat Safin advanced to the quarter-finals of the Countrywide Classic with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory over George Bastl on Wednesday.

Safin, the No. 3 seed, got past the second round of the tournament for the first time in four tries and is on course for a possible semi-final meeting with No. 2 seed James Blake.

They are the highest seeds remaining following No. 1 Fernando Gonzalez's loss to Zack Fleishman on Tuesday.

A former world No. 1, the 27-year-old Safin finally took control of the match at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA midway through the final set. He got a service break to take a 4-3 lead, then fought off three break points and held serve with a 209kph ace to go up 5-3. He got the win when Bastl, of Switzerland, hit a forehand return long.

Safin was joined in the quarter-finals by Nicolas Kiefer, who continued his comeback from wrist surgery with an efficient 6-3, 6-2 win over Igor Kunitsyn. It was just Kiefer's second hardcourt match in more than a year.

In the quarter-finals today, Kiefer will face fellow German Michael Berrer, who advanced with a 6-3, 7-5 win over qualifier Ricardo Mello of Brazil.

Also through to the quarter-finals is Korea's No. 1 player, Lee Hyung-taik, the No. 7 seed. He beat Wesley Moodie, who retired with a back problem while trailing 6-2, 3-0. Lee had won seven games in a row at that juncture, and had lost just one point in the second set.

Berrer, 27, advanced to his first career quarter-final earlier this year and moved into the top 100 in the rankings just before Wimbledon. He opened the tournament on Monday with an upset of No. 8 seed Amer Delic and is now 6-6 this year.

Kiefer, meanwhile, is 4-3 on the year and 2-0 on hardcourts, a surface he hadn't played on since mid-March of last year. The German star fell on his left wrist at the French Open later that year, and was idle from June 2, last year, to June 11 of this year while undergoing two surgeries and a lengthy rehabilitation.

Kiefer said there were "good parts and bad parts" to his time off. To offset some days when he was "very down and depressed," he found inspiration in working with seriously ill children and the organizations that assist them.

"I helped them raise some money, but they helped me much more," said Kiefer, 30, who was No. 4 in the world in January 2000. "I could see how bad they are and I had only my wrist injured. So I knew it could take one year, it could take two years, but I could play again."

Ferrer dumped out by Verdasco

Defending champion David Ferrer crashed out of Stuttgart's ATP tournament on Wednesday when he was beaten in the second round by fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in straight sets.

Ferrer, 15th on the ATP rankings, was broken in the eighth game of the first set and although he broke back immediately, Verdasco went on to take the first set 7-5 after a huge struggle.

Fourth-seed Ferrer, 25, was also knocked out of Roland Garros early on by Verdasco in the pair's only other meeting this year -- also on clay -- and after his opponent broke him three times in the second set, the defending champion went down 7-5, 6-3.

Having won the ATP tournament in Bastad, Sweden, ten days ago, this was a bitter blow for Ferrer and Verdasco, 23, will now face seventh seed Juan Ignacio Chela in the third round.

Meanwhile earlier on Wednesday, seventh-seed Chela toiled on court for nearly three hours before defeating Serb qualifier Boris Pashanski 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 to reach his eighth quarter-final of the season.

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