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Spadea, Blake, Fleishman, Stepanek advance to quarters at Countrywide

7/20/2007 - Tennis

LOS ANGELES -- James Blake started fast and finished strong.
He struggled in between before serving three straight aces to close
out a 6-0, 1-6, 7-5 win over Paul Goldstein in the second round of
the ATP Countrywide Classic on Thursday night.

The No. 2 seed, and the favorite following top seed Fernando Gonzalez's loss on Tuesday, Blake will face Vincent Spadea in the
quarterfinals on Friday. Spadea celebrated his 33rd birthday by
beating fifth-seeded Dmitry Tursunov 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3.

Also advancing on Thursday were Zack Fleishman -- 7-6 (4), 6-3
over Robert Kendrick -- and Radek Stepanek, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over
sixth-seeded Mardy Fish.

Blake, 27, is making his first appearance in the quarterfinals
of the tournament at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. He bowed out in
the first round in 2001 and the second round in 2005.

Goldstein, 30, had been a quarterfinalist for the second time
last year and was in position to get there again until Blake hit a
forehand winner for a service break and a 6-5 lead in the third
set. Then Blake made sure Goldstein did not have a chance to break
back by serving his 10th, 11th and 12th aces of the match on the
final three points.

"I know how well Paul can play and how much fight he has,"
Blake said. "A lot of guys get down 6-0 and kind of throw in the
towel. He didn't stop fighting. That's why he's one of the best
competitors out here.

"I let up just a tiny bit in the second set and he took
advantage and started taking it to me. In the third I really
started moving my feet well again and played I felt pretty darn
well. He made me play at a pretty high level, including having a
match point against me. He made me work for everything."

Blake faced that match point at 30-40 in the 10th game. But he
got to deuce with a forehand winner and held when Goldstein hit two
forehands into the net. Then Blake got the break and put himself in
position to win.

"I was going to put it [the outcome] on my racket, and I did
that," he said.

Spadea, who said he's still trying to maximize his potential,
called the 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3 victory over Tursunov "a great mental match for me." Spadea advanced to the
quarterfinals of a tournament for the seventh time this year,
though he has reached the semis just once.

"I've been working on my game a lot," said Spadea, who's No.
62 in the rankings now after being as high as No. 18 in February
2005. "Sometimes you forget to just hang in there and compete
hard. So that was a great win for me."

After losing the first set, Spadea trailed 5-3 in the second
after having his service broken for the second time. He won the
next four games and the set, losing only four points in the
process. Then he got a service break in the fifth game of the third
set to take a 3-2 lead and closed it out with a break in the ninth
game thanks to a pair of double faults by Tursunov.

"I didn't do anything really that different," said Spadea, a
quarterfinalist at this event in 2003. "I stayed at the level I
was playing. He was playing a little better, then he started
playing slightly worse and that was that.

"I went for a few more shots. When you're down you tend to
loosen up and play the way you should be playing all the time,
really."

For a long time last year, Stepanek didn't know if he'd be able
to compete again because of a dislocated disc in his neck that
caused him to lose all touch and feel and power in his right hand.

"It was like the hand was not mine; I was like paralyzed," he
said. "Even now I know the hand is not 100 percent, but I'm not
complaining about it. I know the situation and I'm trying to do as
much as I can. You have to stay patient."

Stepanek, who has overcome the injury with rest and exercises
after rejecting the idea of surgery, will play Fleishman in the
quarterfinals.

Fleishman said the win over Kendrick "proved this is an
official level I can play at, instead of [having] just one good
outing. It's the first time I've ever reached the quarters of a
tour event and I hope to take it farther."

After earning a wild card into the tournament by winning a
qualifying event, Fleishman is playing at his former college,
before friends and family.

"I think that really helped me," he said. "When I get a
little tired or a little negative on myself, I hear a few cheers
from the crowd and i think it gives me that little bit of energy I
need."