Roger Federer had to fight to maintain his flawless record over James Blake, struggling to beat the American crowd favorite for the fifth time with a 7-6 (9-7), 6-0, 6-7 (9-11), 6-4 win to advance into the final four of the US Open.
Federer, fighting 20,000-plus fans heavily in the corner of New York state-born Blake, was derailed on Thursday as he served for victory in the third-set tiebreaker as well as in the fourth set while up a double break.
Blake struggled to gain a modicum of satisfaction as he lifted his career first set off the Swiss.
But the Federer style and power came to the fore at the end to get the job done as the world number one moved into a semi-final against seventh seed Nikolay Davydenko.
The anonymous grinder called on all of his reserves to struggle through a comeback, becoming the second Russian into the final four with a 4-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over German Tommy Haas.
Federer flirted with a minor disaster in a tumultuous opening set that lasted more than an hour as Blake forced the Swiss to save three set points.
That mission accomplished, Federer put on a master class with a love second set and a break off Blake for 5-3 in the third.
But the American found a way to rally for a break-back and leveled at 5-all as the struggle for survival that characterized the encounter began to play out.
Blake fought like a wildcat to claw back, saving a Federer match point as the Swiss served for victory in the tiebreaker. Federer finally came through in four sets, thanks to seven breaks, 59 winners and a dose of courage.
The Swiss has now beaten 27-straight American opponents while Blake, a quarter-finalist last year, dropped to 1-8 against No. 1 players.
"It was tough from both sides," said Federer, who is 29-4 at the Open and last lost at the event in the 2003 round of 16. "We played good tennis and it was great, even if the crowd was tough on me."
"It was tough serving for the match," he added. "It took awhile today. There were some momentum shifts. It suddenly became a very difficult match. I expected a struggle, and that's what I got."
Blake admitted that the cheering masses were on his side: "Roger was playing against the whole crowd, and he did a great job."
"Against anyone else in the world, I like my chances here, but Roger stepped up his game at the right time. The second [love] set was a good old-fashioned beating. I'm proud that I stepped it up even when I was down a break in the third. I never felt out of the match," he said.
Davydenko, who this year has taken off only one week in July from the nearly year-round tennis grind, joined compatriot and Davis Cup teammate Mikhail Youzhny in the final four.
"I could have lost in three sets," the winner said. "Haas played very well. He was serving great. I had no chance to break him early the match."
On Wednesday, Youzhny stunned second seed Rafael Nadal while Davydenko recovered from a two-set deficit after performing identical heroics in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Bidding for his third final four at a major, Haas paid the physical toll in a third-straight five-set test.
Haas had lost seven-straight five-set matches coming into New York, but the 28-year-old began reversing his luck as he put out Robby Ginepri and Safin by going the distance.
"In the fifth set, for me, it was probably more physical than anything," the German said. "My body didn't feel as good any more."
"I couldn't really do the small steps to get to the balls. I was making too many unforced errors, and I couldn't cover the court as well as I did the first three, four sets," he said.
"I started thinking a bit too much," he added.
‘CRIMINAL ACT’: The UCI said it ‘strongly condemns’ Dylan Groenewegen’s ‘dangerous behavior,’ which left Jakobsen in critical condition and injured other cyclists Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne. Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice. However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. “His condition is very serious. His life is
WEEKEND MATCHES: While Tatung FC made good on their chances early on, Taiwan Steel rallied to win the game 2-3 and move to the top with Taichung Futuro Sunday’s action saw Taichung Futuro, Taipower FC and Taiwan Steel tied for first place on 30 points in the Taiwan Football Premier League, while Hang Yuan FC picked up a point to take the No. 4 spot on 25 points after holding Taipower to a scoreless draw. In Taoyuan, Tatung FC hosted Taiwan Steel. It was an exciting matchup, as the visitors rallied from 2-0 down to take the game with three goals. Tatung made good on their chances early on. Honduran midfielder Elias Argueta opened the account 15 minutes into the game with a low shot from the right. Three minutes
Ronnie O’Sullivan delivered a scathing attack on the next generation of snooker players after he made the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship on Sunday, ending Chinese star Ding Junhui’s world championship dream. The mercurial 44-year-old Englishman won an enthralling high-quality second-round encounter 13-10 to set up a quarter-final clash with three-time champion Mark Williams. When asked by the BBC whether he thought he would remain at the top of the game for this long, the Briton, who turned professional in 1992, said the poor quality of younger players had secured his position and that something drastic would have to happen
Max Verstappen informed his Red Bull team that he would not be driving “like a grandma” in Formula One’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Sunday — and he was as good as his word. The Dutch 22-year-old seized his opportunity at Silverstone, ending dominant Mercedes’ run of four successive wins this season and moving up to second place overall, 30 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen’s confidence shone through early on, after slotting into third place behind the two Mercedes, when he was told by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to take care of his tires. “Mate, this is the only chance of being