Blake battles to enter semis

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Defending champion James Blake beat Olivier Rochus 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2 on Friday to reach the semifinals at the Stockholm Open.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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Stockholm, Sweden:

Defending champion James Blake battled back after losing the first set to beat Olivier Rochus 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2 on Friday to reach the semifinals at the Stockholm Open. Fifth-seeded Jarkko Nieminen also won his quarterfinal, beating Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 7-5 for the Finn's third consecutive straight-set victory in the indoor tournament at Royal Tennis Hall. Nieminen will next meet Swedish wild card Joachim Johansson, who saved three match points in the third set before edging No. 7 seed Kristof Vliegen of Belgium 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7). Johansson fell behind 0-40 when trailing 6-5 in the third set. The Swede, who upset top-seeded Rafael Nadal in the first round, used his big serve to stay alive in the match. In the tiebreaker, Johansson missed his first four match points. Ahead 8-7, he finally clinched the match with a perfect lob before a sellout crowd. Johansson was ranked 690th by the ATP going into the tournament. This is his first ATP event since February. After splitting the first two sets, Blake broke to lead 3-2 in the third set when Rochus' forehand sailed long at 30-40. The second-seeded American then held to love and broke the Belgian again to lead 5-2 after a sizzling return. Blake, seeded second, won the tournament in his first appearance in the Swedish capital last year and is undefeated in eight matches. Last year, he beat Rochus in the semifinals. (AP)

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