Thu, Aug 23, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Blake battles into third round

FAR FROM FLUENTJames Blake won an error-riddled match against Arnaud Clement, while in the women's draw Agnieszka Radwanska outlasted Ai Sugiyama

AFP , NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT

Third-seeded American James Blake battled into the third round in Connecticut on Tuesday as rain continued to disrupt the US$675,000 Pilot Pen US Open tune-up event.

On a chilly evening, the 25-year-old American overwhelmed unseeded Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-2 in a match featuring nine service breaks and multiple unforced errors.

Blake, who reached the finals in Cincinnati last Sunday, was far from his fluent best. Despite not firing on all cylinders, he proved too strong for Clement who just couldn't get his counter-punching game going.

"It was a little tough," Blake said. "You just have to accept that you're not going to hit the 125[mph, 201kph] or 130[mph] serve. I took advantage of his second serves. In these conditions, being chilly and all, I knew he was not going to come up with Karlovic second serves."

The sixth-ranked American has now extended his winning streak to 7-0 against the Frenchman.

"It's not as if it's indicative of his play. He really is one of the best players out there. I know with his ability he can get me on any given day," said Blake who now awaits the winner of the match between Robby Ginepri and Agustin Calleri.

Heavy rain poured down all day at the Connecticut Tennis Center, forcing officials to cancel the day session and push all but four matches to yesterday.

"During a rain delay, you don't want my job," tournament director Ann Worcester said. "I can't remember canceling out a session for the 10 years I've been doing this."

In the only other men's match, American giant-killer John Isner continued his dazzling summer run with a straight set dismantling of Germany's Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4.

The 22-year-old American, who smashed a stunning 144 aces on his way to the final in Washington a few weeks ago, entirely dominated the contest, breaking his opponent once in each set to seal the deal in 58 minutes.

"I knew his game pretty well having played him in Washington. I was really comfortable out there. I knew what I had to do," said the 199th-ranked American, who fired 13 aces to his opponent's 14.

Isner came into the post match news press conference sporting a "J-block" shirt, in reference to James Blake's rooting section of the same name.

"I lost a little bet with James, so I have to wear this at every press conference I do," Isner said. "When I warm up, I have to wear this other shirt which he autographed. It's worse. It has his face on the back of it."

In women's action, Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska outlasted Ai Sugiyama of Japan 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-4, while India's Sania Mirza downed Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-3.

Mirza and Medina Garrigues started their match Monday evening with the Spaniard leading 1-0 and 30-30 before rain intervened. When play resumed late on Tuesday, the Indian star played with authority, unleashing a barrage of winners and ravaging returns.

"My return is my favorite shot," Mirza said. "She's not one of the biggest servers. So you want to put pressure right away."

Mirza had a hectic schedule since Wimbledon, but finally took some time off ahead of the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the year which starts on Monday in Flushing Meadows.

"I took a week off last week. I felt I needed it. I feel fresh again and ready for the US Open," she said.

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