Nadal beats Blake to advance to semifinals

Updated: April 2, 2008, 10:35 PM ET
Associated Press

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Rafael Nadal fared badly on big points Wednesday but still won.

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The Spaniard converted only four of 19 break-point chances but rallied to beat James Blake 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the Sony Ericsson Open.

Nadal's first service break came with a ferocious backhand passing shot for a 5-3 lead in the second set. He broke three more times in the final set, including on the final point. When a demoralized Blake hit his last forehand long, Nadal leaped and punched the air.

"Right now I am feeling like I am playing at my best level," Nadal said.

Blake said he felt fine physically in the afternoon heat and could have played three more sets, but he blamed himself for allowing Nadal back into the match.

"I played my game for a while, and then I got a little indecisive," Blake said. "I wasn't attacking as much. They say the heat can affect your mind, too. Maybe it got to my head."

Ranked No. 2, Nadal is seeking his first tournament title this year and his first title at Key Biscayne. On Friday, Nadal will play 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych, who beat No. 31 Igor Andreev 6-4, 6-4.

Andy Roddick will try to end his streak of 11 consecutive losses to Roger Federer when they meet in the quarterfinals Thursday.

Roddick has lost to his nemesis 15 times, including their past 11 meetings. And Roddick has won only six of the 43 sets they've played. But Roddick beat Federer once and expects to do it again, maybe even Thursday night.

"It will be good," Roddick said Wednesday. "I always look forward to it, and I do believe that I'll beat him one of these times. Hopefully that will be this time around."

The top-ranked Federer will be a heavy favorite, however. Still seeking his first title this year, Federer looks highly motivated and has yet to lose a set in three rounds, while Roddick twice had to overcome one-set deficits.

Plus, a 15-1 record gives a fellow a slight psychological edge.

"I have definitely a very, very good record against him," Federer said.

The meeting between Federer and Roddick will be their first since November at the Tennis Masters Cup in China. Roddick won six games in two sets.

They also met in the quarterfinals at last year's U.S. Open. Roddick lost two tiebreaks and then faded in the third set.

"The toughest place to play against him is always in America," Federer said.

Not that tough. Federer's 4-0 against Roddick in the United States. In Grand Slam finals against Roddick, Federer is 3-0.

After one loss, Roddick joked his solution might be to punch Federer. Another time, Roddick declined to describe their matches as a rivalry because he said they were too one-sided.

His only victory came in Montreal in 2003, and he conceded the frustration of repeated failures against Federer makes it difficult to stay positive.

"If I'm being frank, it is hard," Roddick said. "But at the same time ... the good thing about tennis is you pretty much start over at the beginning of every day. Even after some of my tough losses, I think I've always been pretty clear that I would get up the next morning and keep going. You know, I've had a pretty good career doing that so far."

Nadal showed his typical tenacity in the quarterfinals, beating Blake despite converting only four of 19 break-point chances. Ranked No. 2, Nadal is seeking his first tournament title this year and his first title at Key Biscayne.

"Right now I am feeling like I am playing at my best level," Nadal said.

Blake said he felt fine physically in the afternoon heat and could have played three more sets, but he blamed himself for allowing Nadal back into the match.

"I played my game for a while, and then I got a little indecisive," Blake said. "I wasn't attacking as much. They say the heat can affect your mind, too. Maybe it got to my head."

On Friday, Nadal will play the winner of Wednesday night's match between 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych and No. 31 Igor Andreev.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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