Los Angeles: Top-seeded German Tommy Haas survived a see-sawing opening set to beat Russian Marat Safin 7-6, 6-2 on Friday and book his place in the semi-finals of the LA Open.
Tournament champion in 2004 and 2006, Haas broke his eighth-seeded opponent in the fifth and seventh games of the second set to seal victory in one hour, 49 minutes under the floodlights at the LA Tennis Centre.
The German former world number two appeared to be in early control of the opening set but was twice broken by the volatile Safin before immediately breaking back in the eighth and 12th games.
Safin, a double grand slam champion playing his final season on the ATP Tour, squandered three set points in the 12th, twice through unforced errors, before losing the tiebreak 7-3.
“Playing against Safin is never an easy task and he’s a pretty good friend of mine,” Haas told reporters after posting his 16th win in his last 19 matches.
“The first set was kind of crazy and a little bit frustrating because I had a lot of break points which I could never convert.”
“But I played a pretty good tiebreak where he gave me a few unforced errors and winning that set was obviously big,” added the German, who won his 12th ATP title in Halle last month.
“When I got that break in the second set, I felt like I was in a pretty good position and I think he mentally kind of gave in a little bit.”
Haas failed to convert five break points in the opening game of the second set before tightening his grip on the match to set up a meeting in the last four with in-form American Sam Querrey.
A runner-up in his last two ATP events, sixth seed Querrey upset fourth-seeded Israeli Dudi Sela 6-3 7-5 on a sun-splashed afternoon, breaking his opponent once in each set.
“I served well out there and usually when I serve well I win most of the time,” a smiling Querrey said after dropping only two points on his first serve during the match.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he added, referring to a 2009 campaign featuring finals appearances in his last two events in Newport and Indianapolis.
“I would have liked to have won those two tournaments but I can’t complain about getting into the finals and so far so good here.”
Earlier, little-known Australian qualifier Carsten Ball eased into his first ATP semi-final with a 6-4, 6-4 win against towering American John Isner.
The 22-year-old left-hander, whose father and coach is former Australian professional Syd Ball, twice broke Isner to become the first qualifier to reach the last four in Los Angeles in a decade.
“Obviously I’ve played a couple of good matches,” Ball told reporters. “I got some confidence in there, and I’ll just try to keep it going, just play within myself.”
Ball will next meet Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer, who gained a walkover into the last four when second-seeded American Mardy Fish pulled out on Friday because of an abdominal strain.