Blake to face Federer

August 18, 2007 10:22 PM
MASON, Ohio (AP) -- Roger Federer moved within a victory of his 50th career title by beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (1) in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters on Saturday.

Federer, who won this event in 2005, will face James Blake on Sunday. Blake beat Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 6-2 in the late semifinal match.

Federer is 6-0 against Blake. A win would make him the fifth-youngest player to win 50 titles, at 26 years, 11 days. Bjorn Borg won his 50th at 23 years, 7 months.

Blake, who has never lost to Davydenko in six matches, has improved with each match this week, after having to withdraw from the event in Montreal last week with a pulled stomach muscle.

He capped the seventh game of the second set with a 132 mph ace, and broke Davydenko in the next game with a cross-court smash for match point.

The championship match Sunday will pair two players who ran into problems last week. Blake had to withdraw from his second-round match with Hewitt; Federer thought he had played well all week and was just unlucky on Sunday.

"I missed 50 last week by three or four points," Federer said of his loss in the Rogers Cup finals to Novak Djokovic. "Maybe I'll get a little bit closer this week."

It was the second straight match in which the top-ranked player in the world was pressed to three sets. He beat Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 on Friday.

"It was quite a fight. It was a good match, I thought," Federer said of his 20th match with Hewitt. "I think it was the best match I've played this week."

Federer and Hewitt exchanged service breaks in the second and third games before Federer broke Hewitt again in the fourth game with a blistering cross-court shot to take control of the first set.

Both players held throughout the second set, which Hewitt won in a tiebreaker.

The third set went much like the first, with Federer and Hewitt trading service breaks in the fifth and sixth games.

But the second tiebreaker was played much differently than the first, in which Hewitt won the first three points and ultimately prevailed. This time, Federer yielded only on Hewitt's first serve, then ran off six straight points.

"In the second-set tiebreak, I played the big points well, and in the third-set tiebreak, he played the big points well," Hewitt said.

Federer let a couple chances slip away when Hewitt saved two match points in the 10th game of the third set. Later, he was able to laugh at his confusion while describing the way Hewitt held on to force the tiebreaker.

"He hangs in there like a cat with seven lives," Federer said, then corrected himself when laughter told him he had mixed things up slightly.

"Nine? Yeah, I thought so," he said. "Seven would have been easy."

Federer committed 36 unforced errors, but also served 18 aces.

"I thought I served really well," Federer said. "I'm very happy."

Federer has beaten Hewitt 11 straight times, including last week's quarterfinals in Montreal.

"The last two weeks have been good," Hewitt said. "Couldn't have asked for two better weeks, and it's taken the best guy in the world to knock me off."

Hewitt dominated Federer in their early matches, taking 7 of 9 from 1999 to 2003. But he has not beaten Federer since then.

"If I keep giving myself opportunities against Roger or Rafa (Nadal) or whoever at the end of tournaments, then sooner or later that's going to fall my way," Hewitt said.