By Christopher Lancette
WASHINGTON — Second seed Alexandr Dolgopolov came within one point of going down 0-4 in the first set but rallied for a 7-6, 6-4 win over fan favorite James Blake on Friday. He will play Sam Querrey at 7 p.m. Saturday in one semifinal while top seed Mardy Fish will take on Tommy Haas at 3 p.m. in the other. The women’s final, meanwhile, features top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova against surprise title contender Magdalena Rybarikova. In women’s doubles, the team of Shuko Aoyama (Japan) and Kai-Chen Chang of Taiwan won the championship today by defeating Irina Falconi (U.S.) and Chanelle Scheepers (Russia.)
“I was pleased with how I got back in that game,” No. 25 Dolgopolov said of the critical point in the most compelling match of the day. “I got back in the game and got some momentum going.”
|Alexandr Dolgopolov – Photo by Wonok Kim|
Dolgopolov said he did not make any drastic changes in his game when he faced that double-break point in the fourth game.
“I was playing the same game,” he said. “I got lucky on one point but I was pretty much playing the same but making less unforced errors.”
Fish (world No. 15) dispatched Belgian Xavier Malisse (No. 67) 6-3, 6-4, taking command early in the first set and never looking back. In the second set, he pounded serves reaching the mid-130s and buried a bushel of backhand winners up the line – depositing a number of cross-court forehands in the same location.
|Mardy Fish – Photo by Wonok Kim|
The highlight point of the night came in the second set with Fish up 2-1 and serving for the game. The American ran Malisse from sideline to sideline with a series of groundies and hit a drop shot to lure his opponent to the net. Malisse hit a backhand overhead into the corner that Fish tracked down before blasting a backhand passing shot up the line for the winner.
Despite the quick start, Fish said that he does not consciously try to finish matches quickly and conserve energy for later in the week.
“That doesn’t enter my mind at all,” he said. “Federer is the only guy who’s able to do that.”
Fish’s win increased his season series lead over Malisse to 3-1 and proved to be another step forward in his return to good health. Fish continues to rebound after missing two and a half months between April and June recovering from surgery to fix an irregular heartbeat in May. Injuries also prevented Fish from competing here last year.
Next up for Fish is Haas of Germany. He opened the men’s quarterfinals today by steamrolling German countryman Tobias Kamke 6-1, 6-2. The easy win improved Haas’s 2012 quarterfinal record this season to 4-0.
“I expect a tough match,” Fish said, “a really tough match. I expect him to play well. He has played well in the past few weeks. He’s a great player, as high as No. 2 in the world a while ago. He has had a ton of injuries but he seems to be pretty close to back to one hundred percent with his health and he’s hitting the ball as well as I’ve seen him hit it in a long time.”
|Sam Querrey – Photo by Wonok Kim|
Querrey, the No. 8 seed, knocked out Kevin Anderson, 6-4, 6-4. Querrey took control of the match at four-all in the second set when he pulled the score to 30-all with a backhand cross-court winner. After Anderson hit an inside-out forehand wide right on the next point, Querrey responded to a high-bouncing tape job by hitting a dropshot that caught Anderson on his heels. Querrey polished off the match with a bevy of booming serves that Anderson returned long.
Querrey’s advance to the semis in Washington continues the roll he has been on, too. After falling outside the Top 100, he has fought his way back inside the Top 40 thanks to a 2012 season that has included a championship title in Los Angeles and a semifinal appearance at Queen’s Club.
|Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Photo by Wonok Kim|
On the women’s side of the tournament, top seed Pavlyuchenkova of Russia turned in a come-back win, dropping the first set 4-6 to No. 4 seed Vania King of the U.S. She righted the ship in the second, 7-5, and closed out the match 6-4 in the third. World No. 28 Pavlyuchenkova has been on a hot streak since the French Open this year, reaching the third round or quarterfinals at four of her last five tournaments.
Rybarikova (Slovakia) reached her first WTA final by upsetting No. 3-seed Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-3.
“I’m very happy,” she said, “because I didn’t expect this. I came here Saturday and thought, ‘OK, let’s prepare maybe for some other tournament because it was going to be very tough to play here. It’s amazing hot here. The first match, I was playing very relaxed because I had nothing to lose and I was playing very good. Then it continued.”
The No. 102-ranked Slovak broke the American midway through the first set and applied consistent pressure throughout the second, causing Stephens to begin committing a barrage of unforced errors throughout the first set. Stephens became visibly upset with herself and could not pull out of her tailspin.
|Magdalena Rybarikova – Photo by Wonok Kim|
Once Rybarikova observed the impact of the pressure she was applying, did she choose to get more aggressive or simply play conservative balls to Stephens and let the younger player make more mistakes?
“I have to play every match different,” Rybarikova said. “One match, I’m more aggressive. One match I’m making her play. That’s why I was playing sometimes more aggressive and sometimes I was just making her play because I saw that she was struggling.”
The women’s final between Rybarikova and Pavlyuchenkova is scheduled on stadium court at no earlier than 9 p.m.