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Nalbandian, Blake upset; Hewitt, Federer win

7/1/2006 - Tennis

WIMBLEDON, England -- After four days without a significant
upset, two top players were eliminated at Wimbledon on Friday: James Blake and David Nalbandian.

Nalbandian, the runner-up in 2002, was bounced in straight sets in a third-round match. Blake lost a
five-setter.

Fourth-seeded Nalbandian lost 7-6 (9), 7-6 (9), 6-2 to
30th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain in the third round.

Eighth-seeded Blake faded against 53rd-ranked Max Mirnyi of Belarus, extending the American's record in five-setters to 0-9. Blake won just nine points in the last set as Mirnyi pulled away for a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory.

"He was red hot at the start, he was red hot at the end," Blake said. "Max Mirnyi red hot on grass -- not a lot of guys are going to beat him."

Blake rallied strongly from one set and a break down to go up two sets to one. But the 6-foot-5 Mirnyi capitalized on Blake's second serves in the last two sets and played aggressive
serve-and-volley tennis, winning 67 points at the net.

"My served stopped going in," Blake said. "One of those things. He's one of the toughest guys to play with just a second serve. He proved it."

Three-time defending champion Roger Federer, meanwhile, kept up
his fast start. He had 50 winners and only 13 unforced errors in a
6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-4 win over 77th-ranked Nicolas Mahut of France.

The only surprise came when Federer was broken for the first
time in the tournament when he served for the match. He broke right
back in the next game to close it out.

"I realized early on that I wanted to be the dominant player from the baseline, whenever there's a rally from the baseline, that I'm in command," Federer said. "I tried to stay back a little bit
more often and it worked. It was a tricky match."

Federer will next face 13th-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, who outlasted Germany's Tommy Haas, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 4-6, 8-6, extending his record in five-setters to 8-0. Berdych beat Federer at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but the Swiss star has won the last three, including at the French Open and Halle tournament in June.

Nalbandian, who was beaten by Lleyton Hewitt in the 2002 final,
had never lost before the round of 16 in three previous attempts at
Wimbledon.

"I didn't play good," he said. "I couldn't return any serves.
I missed a lot of chances. He played OK. He didn't play great. I
just lost by myself."

Nalbandian reached the semifinals at both the Australian and
French Opens this year. He retired with an abdominal injury during
the French semifinal against Federer.

Despite his high seeding, Nalbandian was not considered among
the chief contenders to unseat Federer. Hewitt and Andy Roddick are
viewed as the main threats.

Hewitt needed just over half an hour Friday to move into the
third round.

The sixth-seeded Australian had split the first four sets with
102nd-ranked Lee Hyung-taik of South Korea when their match was
suspended by darkness Thursday.

Returning to Court 1 under sunny skies, Hewitt broke Lee in the
10th game of the fifth set to finish a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-7
(5), 6-4 win. Friday's play took 38 minutes, while the match lasted
3 hours, 56 minutes overall.

Lee fell behind 0-40 on his first service game of the fifth set,
but saved three break points and held. Hewitt got in trouble at
15-30 and 30-30 on his serve in the ninth game, but hit consecutive
aces (his 18th and 19th of the match) to hold, pumping his fist and
shouting, "Come on!"

That seemed to lift Hewitt, and he went on to break for the
match in the next game. After Hewitt ripped a forehand winner to
put Lee down 15-40, the Korean dumped a forehand approach into the
net on match point. Hewitt celebrated by dropping down to one knee
and pumping his right arm three times.

In another match that had been suspended Thursday, Britain's
Andy Murray completed a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 win over France's
Julien Benneteau to set up a third-round meeting against Roddick.
In their only previous meeting, Murray beat Roddick 7-5, 7-5 in
the semifinals of the San Jose tournament in February on a hard
court en route to his first tour title.

"He's definitely a big favorite to win tomorrow, having been to
the final of Wimbledon twice," Murray said. "His game's a little
bit better suited to grass than mine."