Monday, September 05, 2005

Blake Sets Up All-American Quarterfinal

The storybook comeback of American James Blake continued Monday afternoon when he advanced to his first ever slam quarterfinal by coming back to beat Tommy Robredo (19) in four sets 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-3. It was far from easy for the 25-year-old Yonkers native.

Trailing 5-3 to a sharper Robredo in the first set, Blake broke back to give himself a chance. Instead of taking advantage, he donated the first set to Robredo with a double fault.

With Robredo outplaying Blake, combining solid groundstrokes with an effective net game where he converted 26 of 28 points, he had Blake in a huge hole up 5-2 in the second set. After Blake held for 5-3 though, the entire complexion of the match changed when Robredo couldn't finish off the set. Blake saved a set point and then started dictating play with heavy forehands, forcing errors from his nervous opponent. When Robredo tossed in his second double fault (7 for match), Blake was back on serve.

After he held for five all, Robredo again had difficulty holding. A more confident Blake worked his opponent from corner to corner, outhitting him to break for 6-5. With his first serve percentage picking up, Blake finished the set with ease to square the match.

With the momentum his, Blake didn't let up in a relatively easy third set where Robredo struggled. With his serve percentage continuing to climb, Blake had easy holds. This allowed him to put more pressure on Robredo's serve. With blistering groundstrokes pinning back Robredo, Blake took full advantage at the net winning 28 of 34 points. He also punished Robredo's second serve winning 55 percent of the points. It didn't take long for Blake's increased level to get to Robredo. He broke him twice and won the set going away.

With a packed Ashe Stadium crowd filled with Blake's contingent anticipating an All-American dream quarterfinal showdown with Andre Agassi, the charasmatic Blake saw the finish line in the fourth set. He continued to ratchet up the intensity on Robredo's games to get that one break he needed. It finally came in the seventh game to put him two games away.

After another easy hold, Blake decided to finish the match in style with his seventh break in 15 chances rather than wait to serve it out. Robredo did fight off one match point but when a Blake backhand down the line forced a long forehand, the dream quarterfinal against Agassi was set.

Before the match concluded, CBS broadcaster Dick Enberg wondered if the match came down Wednesday night who the crowd would root for. "Neither guy is boo-able," added CBS analyst Mary Carillo. That summed it up best.


Pierce Avenges French Open Loss

In the featured women's night match, Mary Pierce (12) avenged her French Open final loss knocking out seventh seed Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-3, 6-4 to make her first U.S. Open quarterfinal since 1999. Pierce took advantage of 10 double faults and enroute to the straight set win. She especially made Henin-Hardenne pay on the Belgian's second serve winning 69 percent (25 of 36) of the points.

In Roland Garros, Pierce only won two games. She had more than that by the third game jumping out to a 5-0 two break lead but tightened up when Henin-Hardenne got one back and cut it to 5-3. Trying to serve it out, Pierce even had to save a break point that would have put the set back on serve. But she didn't wilt finishing out the set by forcing Henin-Hardenne into an error.

The second set was a little more of a battle lasting almost an hour. After the two traded breaks, Pierce broke in the fifth game. She tried to finish off Henin-Hardenne up 5-3 but the former 2003 champion fought off three match points on her serve. They battled for several minutes. One rally saw Henin-Hardenne on the attack lobbing a shot over Pierce but the former two slam winner ran down the ball and hit a highlight reel backhand winner down the line, drawing loud cheers and smiled. Henin-Hardenne eventually won the game to stay in the match.

With Henin-Hardenne two points from leveling the set, Pierce buckled down and boomed one of her four aces and then recorded a service winner to get to her fourth match point. This time, she cashed in when Henin-Hardenne dumped a backhand into the net. Pierce will next play third seed Amelie Mauresmo, who defeated Russian Elena Likhovtseva (19) 6-1, 6-4.

Ginepri Caps Off Banner Day For American Tennis

In the second night match at Ashe Stadium, American Robby Ginepri became the third American male to make the quarterfinals, coming back from two sets to one down to defeat 19-year-old French riser Richard Gasquet 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-0. The match took exactly three hours to complete. It's Ginepri's first ever slam quarterfinal. He'll next meet Argentine Guillermo Coria (8) for a chance at the semifinals.

Both players traded breaks to split the first two sets 6-3. Gasquet took a third set tiebreak 10-8, which lasted almost an hour to lead two sets to one. Down 3-1 in the fourth set, Ginepri bounced back breaking Gasquet twice to claim the set 6-4 pushing the match the distance.

With momentum clearly on his side, he carried it through to an easy final set bageling Gasquet 6-0. He finished the match winning 11 of the final 12 games. It capped off a great day for American tennis with Lindsay Davenport also advancing on the women's side.

Tuesday features Round of 16 men's action with defending champion and top seed Roger Federer taking on German Nicolas Kiefer while third seed Lleyton Hewitt battles Dominik Hrbaty (15). Also vying for quarterfinal spots are David Nalbandian (11) against Italian Davide Sanguinetti while Spaniard Fernando Verdasco takes on Finn Jarkko Nieminen.

The night session highlights the first two women's quarters when top seed Maria Sharapova plays Nadia Petrova (9) while Kim Clijsters (4) takes on Venus Williams (10).

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