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Hewitt Closes On First Red Clay Title

Houston, U.S.A.

Bjorn Phau In Action© Tessa Kolodny/ROCCBjorn Phau In Action

Two-time former ATP World Tour Champion Lleyton Hewitt is one win away from his first ATP World Tour final in more than two years after defeating  Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the US Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston. The Australian has not contested a final since winning his 26th career crown in Las Vegas in 2007.

At the ATP World Tour 250 tournament in Houston, Hewitt is attempting to win the first red clay court title of his career. His lone clay court title came on green clay in Delray Beach in 1999, which was just the second title of his career.

The Australian is also closing in on 500 career match wins - his career record now stands at 497-169. Should he win the title he will move to 499 match wins. Roger Federer (634) and Carlos Moya (573) are the only active players with more than 500 match wins.

Hewitt next meets rising Russian star Evgeny Korolev, who broke serve six times in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over tough Argentine veteran Guillermo Canas. Korolev was broken when serving for the match at 5-3 but then broke straight back to clinch victory in exactly two hours.

Bjorn Phau (pictured) upset fellow German veteran Tommy Haas 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals of the US Mens Clay Court Championships in Houston Friday, in a victory that will add further momentum to his rise up the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings. Phau, who took out top seed Mardy Fish in the opening round of the ATP World Tour 250 tournament, has risen 41 spots already this year to No. 77 and could be headed towards his career-high mark of No. 59.

Phau has qualified into three events on the 2009 ATP World Tour season, including the recent ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, the BNP Paribas Masters and the Sony Ericsson Open. The 29 year old next meets American Wayne Odesnik.

Odesnik advanced to his second straight Houston semi-final after upsetting big-serving countryman John Isner 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5). Isner fired 14 aces and won 75 percent of points on his first serve and 70 percent of points on his second serve and dropped serve just once in the match.

But Odesnik was also miserly on his own serve and saved four of five break point chances, ensuring that the match came down to a deciding tie-break in the third set.  Odesnik owns a career 6-2 US Men's Clay Court record for his career and an impressive 10-4 lifetime record on clay (compared to 11-23 on all other surfaces).

The winner of the Odesnik vs Phau semi-final will be reaching his first career ATP World Tour Final. The past two winners of the US Men's Clay Court Championships made Houston their first career title (Granollers 2008, Karlovic 2007).



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