Los Angeles: Second seed and champion Sam Querrey overcame an erratic serving display to reach the LA Open semi-finals with a nail-biting 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 victory over German veteran Rainer Schuettler on Friday.
The 6-foot-6 American smashed two rackets in frustration and trailed 4-5 in the deciding set but twice broke the German as his opponent served for the match before clinching the tiebreak 7-4 at the LA Tennis Center.
Querrey, who beat Australian Carsten Ball in last year’s final, will meet sixth seed Janko Tipsarevic in the last four, the Serb having upset third-seeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 6-3 7-5.
In the third quarter-final of the day, Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez, the fourth seed, came from a set down to beat American wildcard James Blake 3-6 7-6 6-4.
“I kind of got lucky to get through,” Querrey, 22, said courtside after a topsy-turvy match lasting two hours 20 minutes. “I was pretty frustrated the whole time but I then did a great job of playing the 5-4 and 6-5 games.
“My serve sucks right now,” he added after recording 14 aces and nine double faults in bright sunshine. “I just don’t have that consistency of the knee bend and fluid motion. It’s not as comfortable as it was at Queens and Wimbledon.
“It’s getting better every day, though. When I needed it, I got it. I served well in that tiebreaker.”
Querrey, who needed three sets to beat South African qualifier Kevin Anderson in the previous round, raced through the opening set but lost the first three games of the second before the German levelled the match.
Both players held serve in the third set until the ninth game when Schuettler hit a searing backhand service return winner to earn his seventh breakpoint, which he converted when Querrey netted a forehand.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Schuettler failed to hold but he immediately broke back when a Querrey crosscourt backhand sailed wide.
Again Schuettler failed to serve out the match, a flicked forehand ending up in the net for the American to level at 6-6 and force a tiebreak.
Querrey, the only player to have won three ATP titles this year on different surfaces, dominated the tiebreak with his booming first serve, going 5-3 up before sealing the win when a Schuettler backhand sailed long.
Tipsarevic, wearing his trademark green-and-white prescription sunglasses, cruised through the first set against an out-of-sorts Baghdatis, a former world junior champion.
The Serb then squandered a 3-1 lead in the second before regaining control to record his first win against the Cypriot in three meetings.
“This week I’m playing good,” said Tipsarevic, at number 46 ranked 20 spots below Baghdatis. “I’m playing against tough opponents and I haven’t dropped a set yet.”
Top seed and British world number four Andy Murray, seeking his first ATP title of the year, was scheduled to take on Colombian Alejandro Falla in Friday’s late match.