Federer Beats Blake to Reach Semifinals

Friday, September 8th 2006, 6:59 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Beaten on yet another amazing shot by Roger Federer, James Blake shouted across the net Thursday night. ``You're too good!'' he called out. Federer looked every bit the best player on the planet, turning back Blake and tuning out a partisan crowd for a 7-6 (7), 6-0, 6-7 (9), 6-4 victory at the U.S. Open that put him into a record-tying 10th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal.

``The score says it all. The match could have been easier. Could have been tougher,'' the top-seeded Federer said. ``It turned out to be a thriller.''

Sure, the fifth-seeded Blake became the first player to win a set from Federer in the tournament. And after going 0-12, Blake finally won a set against him.

Still, it wasn't nearly enough to derail Federer's bid for a third straight Open title.

``Did his heart rate ever go up above about 60?'' Blake said. ``He doesn't look too worried to me.''

Federer next plays Saturday against No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko, who rallied to beat No. 14 Tommy Haas 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. In the other semi, No. 9 Andy Roddick takes on unseeded Mikhail Youzhny.

``I'd probably like to play Andy, I guess, but (we're) not quite there yet,'' Federer said. ``We look like the big favorites, but we've seen what happens to favorites sometimes, so we have to be careful.''

In Friday's marquee matchup, No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo faces No. 3 Maria Sharapova in the women's semifinals. They'll play after No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne takes on No. 19 Jelena Jankovic.

Also on court: Martina Navratilova, in what could be her final pro tournament. The retiring great will team with Bob Bryan in the mixed doubles semifinals after winning Thursday.

Nimble as ever a month shy of her 50th birthday, Navratilova ran for a return and wound up in the third row of the seats.

``You're only as old as you feel, and I certainly don't feel 49,'' she said.

Sharapova and Mauresmo practiced on adjacent courts Thursday. Mauresmo briefly chatted with fans in French while autographing hats and shirts as she exited. A crowd of about 100 gathered to watch Sharapova, and she signed about a dozen items without saying a word or looking up.

Sharapova is 0-5 in major semifinals since winning Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17. Mauresmo had never won a major until taking the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year; she's also 3-0 lifetime against Sharapova.

With a crowd of 23,712 cheering everything he did, Blake tried to break through in his fifth career match against Federer. Blake had his chances, but missed three points that could've given him the first-set tiebreaker.

Blake barely blinked, and the second set was gone, too.

``It was so quick. I don't remember much of it,'' he said.

The highest-ranked American saved three match points in the third set, forced a tiebreaker and won, giving his fans a glint of hope. Federer took that away, real quickly.

``I take pride in the way I fought,'' Blake said. ``It's a good feeling to know that I'm close to Roger. ... I guess he's human.''

``There are times you just have to say, 'Too good,' and move on,'' he said. ``There's just too many things he does well. He doesn't panic. He plays offense unbelievably well. He plays defense better than anyone I've ever played.''

Federer has reached the semifinals at every major since the 2004 French Open. His streak of 10 in a row matched Ivan Lendl's run from 1985-88 as the longest in the Open era, and Federer is aiming for his ninth Grand Slam title.

Federer improved to 68-5 this season.

There is someone who plays more tennis than Federer, although he doesn't win as often. Davydenko is 54-22 this year after outlasting Haas for more than 3 1/2 hours.

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.

Arthur Ashe Stadium was only half-filled for Davydenko's afternoon match. He could understand why.

``Who cares about Davydenko?'' he figured the fans said. ``He didn't win a Grand Slam, was not No. 1.''

Davydenko and Haas looked tired as their match stretched on, and the German might have been feeling the effects of going to fifth-set tiebreakers in both of his previous matches. Haas yelled, ``Giddyup!'' as he emerged from the locker room to head onto the court, but cramps slowed him near the end.