Sun, Aug 19, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Federer bounces back to beat Almagro

SURPRISE PACKAGE Nothing in Nicolas Almagro's record suggested he would give the Swiss ace such a tough time, having previously only taken a set off him in four matches

AP , MASON, OHIO

Roger Federer signs autographs after defeating Nicolas Almagro at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters tennis tournament in Mason, Ohio, on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Roger Federer didn't let one frustrating game ruin everything.

The top-ranked player overcame a momentum-changing second set on Friday, recovering to beat Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.

Federer was due to face Lleyton Hewitt in yesterday's semi-finals, looking to extend his 10-match winning streak against the Australian. Hewitt coasted to a 6-2, 6-4 win over a heat-sapped Carlos Moya.

Ninth-seeded James Blake also advanced the semi-finals by beating Sam Querrey 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 on Friday night in a matchup of Americans. He earned the right to face fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, who beat David Ferrer 6-2, 6-4.

For a few minutes in the early afternoon, it appeared that a tournament full of upsets might have the most stunning one yet.

The 21-year-old Almagro had the crowd behind him during the second set, when he matched Federer shot for shot, moved him around the court and won the only break point of the set.

"I had one really bad game and it cost me the set," Federer said. "It happens. I'm happy that it doesn't happen every match."

It was only the second set Almagro had won off Federer. The Swiss star, however, stopped his momentum right there, breaking Almagro's serve to go up 2-0 in the third set. After Federer held serve to go up 4-1, Almagro tossed his racket away in frustration, then had his left calf massaged during the break.

Nothing in Almagro's past suggested he could give Federer such a tough time. He hasn't played well on hard courts -- he's 6-17 on the surface -- and had beaten him in one set in their previous four matches.

This time, he took him to the limit.

In the earlier quarter-final, Hewitt looked much fresher than Moya at the end of an oppressively hot week. Temperatures on the court reached 43oC on Thursday, when the 30-year-old Moya sweated out a three-set victory to reach the quarter-finals.

"I'm not 20 years old anymore, so I felt it a little bit," Moya said.

The 26-year-old Australian had a lot more energy in his game, which has been sharp lately.

"On any given day, I feel I'm capable of beating anybody in the game," said Hewitt, currently ranked No. 19. "The last few months, my body has felt very good. That makes it easier to go out with confidence and play the way I want to play."

Moya served to open the match, fell behind 0-40 and was broken, setting the tone. Hewitt had only two unforced errors during the opening set.

He broke Moya again to open the second set. Trailing 3-0, Moya took an injury timeout to have a blister on his right foot treated. The crowd then got behind the Spaniard, who rallied briefly before Hewitt finished him off.

Hewitt hasn't beaten Federer in four years. The Swiss has won their last 10 matches, including a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the quarter-finals in Montreal last week.

Blake and Querrey played a close-as-could-be match last month in Indianapolis. Querrey served a career-high 34 aces _ including 10 in a row -- while winning in three sets, all of them decided by tiebreakers.

They went the distance again in a much sloppier match.

The 19-year-old Querrey had trouble with his serve and found himself occasionally fighting his nerves.

Blake was more aggressive in the final set, coming to the net to gain the upper hand. He crouched and pumped his fists after breaking Querrey's serve to go up 4-3, then served it out and finished it off with an overhead slam at the net.

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