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Simon Advances; Blake Back To Winning Ways In Estoril

Estoril, Portugal

James Blake© Getty ImagesJames Blake reaches his first clay-court quarter-final of the 2009 season.

Top-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon beat Fabio Fognini for the second time in as many weeks on Thursday, defeating the No. 75-ranked Italian 6-0, 7-5 in 74 minutes at the Estoril Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament. Simon, currently No. 8 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, also beat Fognini at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome last week.

The 24-year-old Simon dropped just 13 points in the first set and despite being broken twice in the second set was able to record his 17th win of the 2009 ATP World Tour season. Fognini hit four double faults, winning just 43 per cent of service points. He dropped to 9-11 this year.

The wild card will appear in his fourth tour-level quarter-final this year on Friday against seventh-seeded Spaniard Albert Montanes. Simon has reached two semi-finals in Marseille (l. to Llodra) and Dubai (l. to Djokovic), and made one quarter-final exit at the Australian Open (l. to Nadal).

Last month’s Casablanca semi-finalist Montanes improved to 11-13 on the year after beating World No. 112 Simon Gruel of Germany 6-2, 6-2 in 72 minutes.

American James Blake reached his first ATP World Tour clay-court quarter-final in 12 months, after defeating Marc Gicquel of France 7-6(6), 6-2 in 77 minutes. The 29 year old last reached a clay-court quarter-final at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome (l. to Wawrinka) in May 2008.

Fourth-seeded Blake hit five aces, withstanding nine aces from Gicquel’s racquet, and won 73 per cent of service points to notch his 11th win of the season (11-8 overall). The World No. 16 is playing his third clay-court tournament this year. His best result on clay came in February 2008 when he reached the Houston final (l. to Granollers).

He will next meet eighth-seeded Frenchman Florent Serra, who snapped a two-week losing streak against last week’s ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome quarter-finalist Juan Monaco of Argentina with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 victory in two hours and four minutes. Serra, the Casablanca runner-up (l. to Ferrero), has a 13-12 record on the 2009 ATP World Tour season. Buenos Aires finalist Monaco, the World No. 45, dropped to a 17-11 mark.

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