Blake comes back from brink of elimination

New Haven, August 24:

James Blake fought off three consecutive match points to win in the afternoon then won again at night to advance to the Pilot Pen semi-finals on Thursday.

Blake beat Fernando Verdasco of Spain 6-4, 6-2 in the quarter-finals. But for a while, it didn’t look like he’d make it that far. Blake faced triple match point with Agustin Calleri serving at 6-3, 5-4, 40-0. But Blake forced a tiebreaker, which he won 7-2. He won the third set 6-1. Blake will play Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu next. Mathieu beat countryman Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-3. Simon had beaten Davydenko earlier 6-4, 6-4.

The men were forced to play two rounds on Thursday after rain canceled numerous matches earlier in the week. Top seed Nikolay Davydenko, No 2 Tommy Robredo, No 4 David Ferrer and No 6 Jarkko Nieminen all fell early in the day.

Blake joined Mardy Fish in semi-finals. Fish beat Jose Acasuso of Argentina 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-0 in his first match, before taking out Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-3, 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

Wawrinka had upset Robredo earlier. Fish will play Ivo Karlovic in the semi-finals. Karlovic beat Igor Andreev of Russia 6-7 (8), 6-4, 7-6 (1).

In the women’s draw, Hungarian qualifier Agnes Szavay became the most unlikely semi-finalist when she defeated No 8-seeded Alona Bondarenko 6-1, 6-4.

Top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova advanced when Francesca Schiavone retired with pain in her left ankle after Kuznetsova won the first set 6-2. Szavay will play Eleni Daniilidou, who upset Dinara Safina of Russia 1-6, 7-6 (8), 6-2. Kuznetsova will play sixth-seeded Elena Dementieva, who advanced after defeating third-seeded Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-2.