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Blake magic

sports Updated: Sep 01, 2007 03:26 IST
Agencies
Highlight Story

Top-seeded Justine Henin quickly chased another qualifier, taking only 50 minutes on Friday to breeze into a fourth-round matchup with No 15 Dinara Safina. Henin won the first 10 games, approached the net more often than usual and chased Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-0, 6-2. The former Open champion from Belgium beat her third straight opponent from outside the top 100. Not that she worried about getting a vigorous warm-up.

“A big part of my success is that I’ve always been very focussed on myself in the last few years,” Henin said. “Don’t look too much on the other side of the net."

Next up for Henin is Safina, the Russian who chased American Ahsha Rolle 6-4, 6-3. The sister of former Open champ Marat Safin never permitted a break chance.

“Obviously, she has more experience than me,” Rolle said. “I feel like I had a couple of bad shot selections that kind of cost me big games.”

As fans straggled into Flushing Meadows on an overcast day, there was talk about what happened the previous night, and what was coming up.

In a match that stretched from Thursday night into early Friday, James Blake outlasted Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Blake had been 0-9 in fifth sets, and this matched ended with both racquets on the court. Blake dropped his when he lifted his arms, as much in relief as exultation. Santoro flung his toward the ball, a desperate and failed attempt to extend an entertaining US Open match that went past midnight.

In a tournament where the favourites have ruled, the most intriguing match was set for Saturday: three-time Open champ Roger Federer vs. 6-foot-9 rookie John Isner.

"Isner’s going to be very tall," former winner Andy Roddick said, “and Roger’s going to be very good.”

After the final point, Blake and Santoro met at the net for a sweaty embrace and an exchange of compliments, both pleased to have been a part of the excitement under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium — although Blake, the winner, was certainly the happier of the two.

"I actually, honestly said to myself at the beginning of the fifth set: ‘I’m going to win this match,’” Blake said. “The whole five-set jinx never got into my head. But this time, I said, ‘I’m not going to let it happen.’”

Earlier in the day, Roddick and Maria Sharapova advanced. Sharapova produced another display of fearsome big hitting to roll into the third round, while Roddick struggled. The 20-year-old Russian glamour girl opened her shoulders to blast past overmatched Australian Casey Dellaqua 6-1, 6-0 in just 51 minutes. That makes it just two games lost in two rounds for the defending champion, who next takes on 18-year-old Polish hope Agnieszka Radwanska. “I did a pretty good job of being solid, but it’s only going to get tougher from here on,” she said.

“I’m feeling really good and that’s the best part of being an athlete — just coming out and being healthy.”

In an upset of sorts, Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland defeated Russia’s Marat Safin in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Sania Mirza advances

The pair of Sania Mirza and Bethanie Mattek (US) easily overcame the challenge of Jarmila Gajdosova (Slovakia) and Bryanne Stewart (Australia) 6-2, 6-2 to move into the third round in women’s doubles.

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