Federer struggles past Blake to tie record
Roger Federer advanced to a record-tying 10th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal.
NEW YORK (AP) -- James Blake made Roger Federer work a whole lot harder than he's used to, and it still wasn't nearly enough.
The top-seeded Federer dropped a set against No. 5 Blake and faced all kinds of trouble before pulling out a 7-6 (7), 6-0, 6-7 (9), 6-4 victory Thursday night at the U.S. Open to reach a record-tying 10th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal.
Federer was so masterful at times that even Blake and the partisan crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium showed their admiration. Some of Federer's most impressive offerings drew shouts of "You're too good!" from Blake, who came into the night 0-4 against Federer, having lost all 10 sets they had played.
But the highest-ranked American did not go quietly, saving three match points and breaking Federer twice when he served for the match, at 5-3 in the third set and 5-2 in the fourth, celebrating the latter with a little strut.
Tough to the end
Right until the very end, Blake gave Federer a tough time, holding a break point in the final game and staving off two match points. Blake also saved a match point in the third-set tiebreaker, and certainly had other chances: He wasted set points in the opening tiebreaker and three break points at 1-0 in the fourth set.
"It took a while today, but look, it's tough," Federer said. "You make mistakes, he plays well, and momentum shifts."
Federer, the two-time defending champion, advanced to a semifinal Saturday against No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko, who dropped the first two sets in a half-empty stadium, then came back to beat No. 14 Tommy Haas 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
The other men's semifinal will be No. 9 Andy Roddick against unseeded Mikhail Youzhny, who upset Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Davydenko and Youzhny give Russia two men's semifinalists at a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time in the Open era, which began in 1968. Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov lost in the final four at the 2001 U.S. Open.
Blake never has been past the quarterfinals at a Slam; he lost at the same stage here last year to Andre Agassi.
Matches Lendl's run
Federer, meanwhile, hasn't lost before the semifinals at a major since the 2004 French Open. His 10 semifinals in a row matches Ivan Lendl's run from 1985-88 as the longest in the Open era, and Federer is aiming for his ninth Grand Slam title.
He hadn't lost a set at this tournament until Thursday, and he sure came close to dropping the opener against Blake. Federer broke at love for a 5-4 edge with a spinning return, but Blake broke right back with the help of a double-fault and two unforced errors. They went to the tiebreaker, where Blake won five straight points to 6-4. Federer erased the first set point with an ace, and Blake gave away two others with a long forehand, then a return into the net.
Blake's body language was negative by the end of the lopsided second set, his shoulders slumping, and one fan extolled him: "Put up some fight!"
Blake complied, suddenly playing even with the best player in the world. The highest drama came in the third-set tiebreaker. Federer was a single point from winning at 9-8 after a 30-stroke exchange ended with Blake dumping a backhand into the net. But Blake extended the match with a backhand winner down the line.
Finally, Blake closed the tiebreaker on his fifth set point, when Federer slipped to his knees while trying to hit a passing shot. Blake was in position for a 2-0 edge in the fourth set, with Federer serving at love-40. But Federer won the next five points, with three service winners, a forehand winner and a Blake error.
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