Country Wide Classic July 16 - 22, 2007 - Day 5
By Matt Osias
Blake, Bryans Through to Semis, Safin Upset; Fleishman’s Cinderella Run Ends
Los Angeles – No. 2 seed James Blake continued his bid for his first Los Angeles title, beating Vince Spadea in straight sets 7-6(2), 6-4. Robbing fans of a possible semifinal match-up between Marat Safin and Blake was Korean Hyung-Taik Lee, who came from behind to halt the Russian 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. In the featured match of the night, Bob and Mike Bryan dispatched the tandem of Amir Delic and Igor Kunitsyn 7-5, 6-2, while American wild card hopeful Zach Fleishman fell to Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-2.
Needing a tie-break to decide the first set, Blake struck first blood, jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead. Though Spadea would snag a few points, it was too little too late as Blake finished off the first set 7-6(2). The second set would not be much better for Spadea, as Blake came out aggressive, securing the early break. With the second set score at 4-2, Blake struck again with another break, giving him the chance to serve out the match.
Spadea, however, with little to lose, was able to get ahead 00-40, where Blake double faulted back one of the two breaks. Spadea would then hold to bring the set score to 5-4, but it was not enough, as Blake regained control, sending the last point of the match into the seats on a crushing overhead slam at the net.
“Those kinds of things happen,” Blake said after giving back a break in the second set. “I just had to keep in mind that I was up a set and still up a break, and close it out.”
James Blake – USA
Marat Safin – RUS
Although Blake admittedly said Safin may be the tougher semifinal round opponent, he complemented the backhand of his next round opponent Lee as one of the best one-handers on Tour.
Safin, who looked to have his quarterfinal match under control, up a set and leading by a break in the third, saw his lead vanish, as Lee’s “keep fighting” attitude vaulted him into the semifinals tomorrow on ESPN 2 against Blake at 11:30 a.m.
“I just kept trying, again and again,” Lee said in regards to his last set heroics. “This is my most successful tournament so far this year.”
Lee has not won a match in his first five tournament appearances in Los Angeles, though now with an opportunity to get into the finals with a win Saturday.
Though clearly disappointed in his inability to close out the match, Safin did appear optimistic, stating that it is just the beginning of the of the hard court season and he has another warm up in Washington before he plays in the Master’s events later in August.
Also continuing their hopes of repeating as champions, Bob and Mike Bryan made quick work of Delic and Kunitsyn.
“We love to play in this stadium, it brings out a lot of energy,” Mike Bryan said. “We got better as the match went on.”
On the grandstand court, wild card Nicolas Kiefer advanced to the semifinals with a 7-6(5), 6-1 win over countryman Michael Berrer.
Matt Osias can be reached at email@example.com