Los Angeles:Second-seeded James Blake advanced to the semifinals of the ATP Countrywide Classic on Friday with a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over Vincent Spadea.
Blake will play No 7 Hyung-Tail Lee in a semifinal match on Saturday. Lee eliminated No 3 seed Marat Safin 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Nicolas Kiefer, of Germany, the 2004 runner-up, also advanced by beating countryman Michael Berrer 7-6 (5), 6-1.
Kiefer, a wild card entrant playing his first hardcourt tournament in 16 months, will face either wild card Zack Fleishman or Radek Stepanek in the other semifinal match.
Blake is in the semifinals of a tournament for the fourth time this year. He didn't make it out of the second round in his two previous appearances at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA. But his fine showing this time could indicate that Blake is set to have a good season on hardcourts, a surface on which he has won nine career titles.
"I love playing hardcourts, especially here in America," said Blake, who became the tournament favorite when top seed Fernando Gonzalez was upset by Fleishman on Tuesday. "It gets hot out, the ball is jumping on the court, I'm moving and I feel great. I feel like it's tough for guys to get the ball by me, and I feel like my forehand is big enough to get the ball by most of them."
The big forehand was one of the keys to victory over Spadea, who fell to 1-6 in quarterfinal matches this year. Spadea had beaten Blake in six of seven previous meetings on tour by relying on consistency and defense.
"It was definitely an emotional win," Blake said. "In the past he's been extremely consistent, he's gotten to a lot of balls and eventually gotten me to beat myself. Today I said I wasn't going to let that happen. I was going to take it to him and not get down on myself no matter the situation.
"It was as much a mental hurdle as a physical hurdle. I know he's going to play very consistent and make me really have to earn it, so it was a good hurdle to get over."