Safin ousts Blake

August 3, 2006 10:06 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top-seeded James Blake became the latest American to drop out of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, falling 7-6 (6), 7-5 (5) to Russia's Marat Safin in a third-round match delayed for more than two hours by rain Thursday night.

Safin, who advanced to the quarterfinals of a tournament for the first time since the Valencia event in April, won the first three tie-break points in the second set, then recovered from a double-fault on match point to slip a shot off the net, past a frozen Blake and just inside the baseline for the win.

"It's just bad luck, but he put himself in position to have that happen," Blake said of the winner. "I wish I hadn't gotten down. I wish I had gotten it to 6-all and then seen what would have happened."

Safin will meet Wesley Moodie of South Africa, a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6) winner over Denmark's Kenneth Carlsen, in the quarterfinals Friday.

It was Safin's fourth victory over a top-10 player this year as he continues to work back to form after an injury-plagued 2005.

"These are the one's that are going to give you the confidence, and hopefully I'll be able to play even better in the next round," Safin said. "These are the kind of matches that I've been looking for over the past three months."

Blake joins fourth-seeded Andre Agassi, who was upset by little-known Italian Andrea Stoppini in the second round, and third-seeded Andy Roddick, who pulled out with a back injury Monday, as prominent American players no longer in the draw.

Earlier Thursday, third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt beat Germany's Denis Gremelmayr 6-1, 6-4. Hewitt, who held off Vince Spadea in a 2 1/2 -hour match Wednesday night, will face France's Arnaud Clement on Friday. Clement beat Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty 6-3, 6-2 to advance to his second consecutive quarterfinal in Washington.

"I played a bit better today," said Hewitt, the Australian star who won the Legg Mason in his last appearance in 2004. "I had my rhythm a bit better, and I felt like I was able to put pressure on his service game throughout the first set. I felt like it was a step in the right direction after yesterday."

Also, eighth-seeded Andy Murray of Britain beat 12th-seeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain 7-5, 6-2 and 16th-seeded Mardy Fish advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Stoppini.

Britain's Tim Henman, the 14th seed, faced Jan-Michael Gambill late Thursday night.