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Blake Avenges Delray Loss; Fish Advances to QF

Houston, TX, U.S.A.

James Blake avenged his Delray Beach final loss to Japan's Kei Nishikori.© Emily JaschkeJames Blake avenged his Delray Beach final loss to Japan's Kei Nishikori.

Top seeded American James Blake avenged his Delray Beach final loss to Japan's Kei Nishikori, defeating the rising star 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday in Houston to advance to the second round at the US Men's Clay Court Championship.

The 18-year-old Nishikori challenged Blake as he twice went up a break in the start of the second set, but the American No. 2 responded by leveling the score each time and then broke Nishikori one more time to secure the win in one hour and 27 minutes.

"It definitely feels good anytime to avenge a loss," said Blake. "Usually the slower court hinders me, but this time I think it helped because his balls are helped by a quicker court. It makes him more effective and he doesn't seem to have a problem with pace. It makes the serve much more effective. It gave me the opportunity to look at his serve a lot better here on slow court."

Nishikori had come into the tournament ranked a career-high No. 116, backed by his title effort in February and ATP Masters Series debuts at Indian Wells and Miami, but he has now lost four straight matches in his ATP main draw appearances.

Blake, who picked up his 20th match win of the season, will attempt to advance to the quarterfinals for his six straight tournament when he confronts another youngster, 15-year-old American qualifier Ryan Harrison, on Thursday night. Harrison is the third youngest player to win an ATP match since 1990, behind Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal.

"It's like I'm back at the junior tournament," the 28-year-old Blake joked. "It's amazing, this kid is 15-year-old and won a round in a tournament. I know he's going to come out tomorrow with nothing to lose...That's always dangerous."

In an all-American second round match, No. 3 seed Mardy Fish fired nine aces and converted on four of his seven break point opportunities to dismiss wild card Hugo Armando 6-3, 6-2.

Fish, the 2006 Houston titlist, advances to his fourth quarterfinal of 2008. He reached back-to-back quarterfinals at Delray Beach and Houston in February, and then reached the ATP Masters Series final at Indian Wells last month with wins over three Top 10 players.

The 26-year-old next faces Spanish No. 8 seed Oscar Hernandez, 30, who advanced to his second quarterfinal of the season by defeating American Donald Young, 6-4, 6-4. The 18-year-old Young failed to take advantage of his six break point chances as he fell to a 5-6 season record.

Earlier in the day, Chilean Nicolas Massu (pictured) prevailed against fourth seeded American Sam Querrey 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a two hour, 48 minute battle. The 20-year-old Querrey went up 2-0 in the decisive set, but failed to hold onto the lead as 2000 finalist Massu broke back twice to secure the win.

Massu is making his third event appearance and reached the final in his debut, when the tournament was held in Orlando, falling short against compatriot Fernando Gonzalez.

Last month, the former World No. 9 dropped outside of the Top 100 for the first since 2002 despite reaching ATP quarterfinals at Auckland and Acapulco. Massu next plays Brazilian Marcos Daniel, who advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Serb Viktor Troicki.

Also on Wednesday, a pair of qualifiers fell in first round action with Chilean Paul Capdeville easing past Argentine Diego Hartfield 6-0, 6-4 and Aussie Peter Luczak defeating Israeli Harel Levy 6-4, 6-4.

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