Blake ousted, Hingis to meet Clijsters in QF

James Blake had another Grand Slam disappointment, losing in the fourth round to Chile's Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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James Blake had another Grand Slam disappointment, losing in the fourth round to Chile's Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open. Blake, who finished last year at No. 4 in the rankings after making the final of the season-ending Masters Cup, lost 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) against 10th-ranked Gonzalez on Monday. The 27-year-old American has never gone beyond the quarterfinals in 20 majors, but came into the season's first Grand Slam tournament confident of improving on that after defending his title at the Sydney International. Instead, it was Gonzalez advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in Melbourne, completing a set at all four Grand Slams. Gonzalez got himself out of trouble with aces when he had to, and regularly ripped forehand winners to keep Blake on the baseline. The 26-year-old Chilean player had a little trouble closing, wasting two match points on Blake's serve and then getting broken himself when serving for the match. But Gonzalez dominated the tiebreaker, getting two mini breaks before closing with an ace, his 18th. Tommy Haas ended eighth-seeded David Nalbandian's endurance run, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win. Nalbandian twice rallied from two sets down and saved match points in earlier rounds, but ran out of gas after taking the opening set against the 12th-ranked Haas, sending a backhand wide on match points. "I've seen what he can do in the past couple of weeks," Haas said. "So I'm really happy with the way I played today. ... it was really, really good." Hingis, Clijsters to clash On the women's side, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters set up their second straight Australian Open quarterfinal showdown. Hingis, the Swiss star who swept the 1997-99 titles and reached the finals the next three years before quitting the tour because of nagging foot and ankle problems, weathered an early challenge from China's Li Na before winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. Clijsters, a 23-year-old Belgian in her final season on the tour, beat No. 15 Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 7-5. Last year in the quarterfinals, Clijsters ended Hingis' first run at a major after three seasons in retirement, winning 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. "It's always a pleasure to play her again here," Clijsters said. "She's just a great champion." The pair are friends on and off the court and are tied 4-4 in head-to-heads, although Clijsters has won their three matches since Hingis returned to the tour. "To me that doesn't promise anything _ you have to go out there and fight for every point," she said. "It's a totally different match. It is the quarterfinal. It's at the Australian Open again." Hingis has reached the quarterfinals in her last nine trips to Melbourne Park. Clijsters was up 6-1, 3-0 when Hantuchova rallied and got back on serve in the second. Clijsters wasted two match points in the 10th game and had to break serve to finish off the match in 1 hour, 19 minutes. She lost only nine games in three previous matches. Hard-fought win Hingis, coming off three two-set victories, was taken aback by heavy pressure from Li's strong ground strokes in the first set. "She came out on fire, I've never played her before, I knew it was going to be a difficult match," Hingis said. "I knew I had to come up with the best ... and after the first set I started playing better." Li was dictating play with stinging shots into the corners in the first set, and feasting on Hingis' serve, the weakest part of her game. Hingis looked shocked as she sat down after losing the first set. But she pulled herself together and started mixing up her game, drawing Li to the net with deft drop shots, then sending up lobs that the Chinese player often whacked way long. Hingis decided just to keep the ball in play until Li made a mistake. And as the match wore on, Li's unforced errors piled up to 69, while Hingis limited hers to eight. Later Monday, top-seeded Maria Sharapova was set to play Vera Zvonareva. The winner will play Russia's Ana Chakvetadze, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over No. 8 Patty Schnyder.