Blake vs. Fish for Pilot Pen title

August 25, 2007 09:32 AM
Associated Press Writer

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- James Blake beat Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2) in a match that ended just after midnight Saturday morning to set up an all-American final at the Pilot Pen.

Blake will play his best friend on tour, Mardy Fish, for the title.

Fish beat hard-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (3), 6-4 to advance to his first final this year.

It will be the first time the frequent practice partners have played each other for a championship.

"If there is anyone on tour that I know their game, it's him,'' Blake said. "I've played more practice sets, more practices matches, more drilling with him than anyone else on tour.''

After playing two matches on Thursday, Blake and Mathieu went 2 hours, 6 minutes on Friday night.

Down 5-4 and 15-40 in the third, Mathieu came back to force deuce and then broke Blake with a forehand winner. Both held serve the rest of the way, but it was all Blake in the tiebreaker.

"You know, a lot of people would have gotten down on themselves after letting a couple of match points get away from them,'' Blake said. "But the way I've been feeling, the way I've been playing and how confident I was ... you just don't feel that you're going to lose.''

Blake will be playing in his second final in a week. He lost Sunday in Cincinnati to Roger Federer.

Qualifier Agnes Szavay won her seventh match in eight days, beating Eleni Daniilidou 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 to reach the women's final.

The 18-year-old Hungarian was down 1-3 in the third set before rallying in a match that featured five consecutive service breaks in the first set and seven breaks in the third.

Szavay said tightness in her back affected her serve.

"From the qualifying, it's really tough,'' she said. "I feel my muscles everywhere and I hope the (trainers) can help me get ready for tomorrow.''

Szavay, ranked 41st in the world, will face top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the first women's semifinal after Elena Dementieva retired while trailing 6-4, 3-6, 0-3.

Kuznetsova is going for her first title of the season.

Dementieva called the trainer after being broken for the second time in the third set, and retired with a stomach ailment. She had doubled-faulted three times in the final game and had 12 double-faults in the match.

"I'm just a little sick,'' Dementieva said. "It was really humid and hot out there, and we just had a very physical game from the first point, lots of long rallies and a really aggressive game.''

Dementieva, the sixth seed, began the match with a strong serve and broke Kuznetsova at 4-4, then held serve to take the set.

She broke Kuznetsova in the first game of the second set, but things deteriorated from there.

Kuznetsova broke right back and then won the eighth game on Dementieva's serve, taking the final point on a backhand winner.

Fish's win was his first against Karlovic in five attempts. Fish made the semifinals in Auckland in January and Memphis in February, but has been bothered by knee problems most of the season.

Fish and Karlovic both played two matches Thursday, and Friday played in heat that reached over 100 degrees on the court.

Fish seemed to be the stronger player in the first-set tiebreaker and in the second set, capitalizing whenever Karlovic's booming first serves went out and winning 73 percent of those second serves.

Fish broke Karlovic at 3-3 and held his own serve the rest of the way.

The tendinitis Fish has in both knees has not been a problem here, he said.

"It's been a very encouraging week physically,'' he said.