Sun, Jul 22, 2007 - Page 23 News List

James Blake advances to Countrywide semi-finals

AP , LOS ANGELESAP, STUTTGART, GERMANYAFP, CINCINNATI, OHIOAP, PALMERO, ITALY

James Blake returns a shot to Vincent Spadea during the quarter-finals of the Countrywide Classic tournament on Friday in Los Angeles. Blake won 7-6 (2), 6-4.

PHOTO: AP

Second-seeded James Blake advanced to the semi-finals of the ATP Countrywide Classic on Friday with a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over Vincent Spadea.

Blake was scheduled to play No. 7 Hyung-Tail Lee in a semi-final match yesterday. Lee eliminated No. 3 seed Marat Safin 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Nicolas Kiefer, of Germany, the 2004 runner-up, also advanced by beating countryman Michael Berrer 7-6 (5), 6-1.

Kiefer, a wild card entrant playing his first hardcourt tournament in 16 months, will face either wild card Zack Fleishman or Radek Stepanek in the other semi-final match.

Blake is in the semi-finals of a tournament for the fourth time this year. He didn't make it out of the second round in his two previous appearances at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA. But his fine showing this time could indicate that Blake is set to have a good season on hardcourts, a surface on which he has won nine career titles.

"I love playing hardcourts, especially here in America," said Blake, who became the tournament favorite when top seed Fernando Gonzalez was upset by Fleishman on Tuesday. "It gets hot out, the ball is jumping on the court, I'm moving and I feel great. I feel like it's tough for guys to get the ball by me and I feel like my forehand is big enough to get the ball by most of them."

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal reached the semi-finals of the Mercedes Cup on Friday with a 6-1, 6-3 win against Argentina's Juan Monaco.

Nadal, breaking Monaco's serve early in both sets, coasted to his 91st win in 92 matches on clay and moved closer to winning the tournament for the second time.

The Spaniard played with his right knee taped but didn't seem bothered by an injury that flared up in his second-round match on Thursday after first surfacing in the Wimbledon final against Roger Federer.

"At the start, I was a little unsure if the knee would hold up," Nadal said. "But then that passed and I played at really a very high level."

Nadal next faces his best friend on the tour, Spain's Feliciano Lopez, who upset sixth-seed Juan Carlos Ferrero, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Seventh-seeded Akiko Morigami of Japan ousted second-seeded Patty Schnyder on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the US$175,000 WTA hardcourt tournament.

Morigami downed Schnyder 6-3, 6-1 to claim her first victory over the Swiss in their fourth meeting. Morigami had never taken a set off Schnyder before.

Schnyder, the 2005 winner of this event and a semi-finalist last year, struggled against the same player she had defeated in the finals here two years ago.

She saved just 3-of-8 break points and won only 11-of-31 second-serve points. Morigami saved six of seven break points against her.

Russian No. 1 seeded Anna Chavetadze booked a semi-final berth when compatriot Elena Vesnina was unable to complete their match.

Karin Knapp of Italy upset fourth-seeded Emilie Loit of France 6-3, 7-6 in the quarter-finals of the Palermo International on Friday.

The 20-year-old Knapp rallied from 2-5 in the second set to advance to the semi-finals at the Country Time Club for the first time.

"The good thing about this match was my strong mental ability to stay in the [second] set," said Knapp, who reached her first WTA Tour semi-final at Budapest in April. "I've made a lot of progress on a psychological level with respect to last year."

Also advancing to the last four were No. 2 seed Martina Mueller of Germany, No. 8 Agnes Szavay of Hungary and Italian wild card Sara Errani.

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