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Fish Saves 3 M.P. To Reach QFs; Querrey Overcomes Qualifier Challenge

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Sela© Getty ImagesIsraeli Dudi Sela is through to his third quarter-final of 2009.

American Mardy Fish enjoyed a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed this week at the LA Tennis Open, but came dangerously close to an early exit against Australian wild card Chris Guccione when he finally took the court Thursday night, needing to face down three match points before posting the 6-7(3), 7-6(12), 6-4 win.

The 112th-ranked Guccione had earned his place in the main draw at the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament as the winner of the annual Wild Card Shoot-Out, but held his own against World No. 21 Fish. Both players won 55 of 70 first serve points and combined for a total of 35 aces, with Guccione firing 24 to his opponent’s 11.

After taking the opening set, Guccione held three chances to close out the match in the second-set tie-break, but failed to put away the victory as Fish came back to clinch the set 14-12. Fish then secured the match’s only break of serve early in the third set and denied Guccione a break back opportunity, closing out the win in two hours and 22 minutes.

The 27-year-old Fish, a semi-finalist last year in Los Angeles (l. to del Potro), has posted his best results on hard-courts this season. He won his third ATP World Tour title in February at Delray Beach and was a runner-up in San Jose.

Fish will next confront Argentine Leonardo Mayer, who battled past No. 5 seed Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 7-6(5), 6-7(7), 6-3 in two hours and 43 minutes to reach his first hard-court quarter-final on the ATP World Tour. Prior to this week, his hard-court experience had been limited to a second-round showing in February at Johannesburg.

"I was a little nervous to close out the match,” Mayer said. “Igor played quite well, and I was able to serve a little better in the final set. I learned from the second set and so in the third set I was more relaxed and played better, and was able to close out."

Mayer, 22, is attempting to become the second straight Argentine to win the LA Tennis Open title following Juan Martin del Potro’s triumph last year. He said: "He's a very good player and I hope I can follow in his footsteps."

Sixth seed Sam Querrey had his hands full earlier in the day against fellow American and qualifier Ryan Sweeting, but pulled through to clinch a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 win in one hour and 56 minutes. Querrey fired 15 aces against his 155th-ranked compatriot, and won the lone break point chance of the third set to advance to the Los Angeles quarter-finals for the first time in three event appearances.

The 21-year-old Californian has been in formidable form in recent weeks, turning in successive runner-up showings at the U.S. tournaments in Newport (l. to R. Ram) and Indianapolis (l. to Ginepri) to move up to a career-high No. 32 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings. He opened his 2009 campaign by reaching the hard-court final in January at Auckland (l. to del Potro).

Querrey will next face his first head-to-head meeting against fourth-seeded Israeli Dudi Sela, who defeated American Robert Kendrick 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in second-round action. Sela said about his performance in the third set: “I think that I was controlling the point, moving him around, and returning a lot of his first serve back.”

With his effort Thursday, the 30th-ranked Sela moved to an 18-14 season record – eclipsing his personal-best 17 match wins in ATP competition achieved last year.

He said about his nine-inch height disadvantage against the 6'6" Querrey: “All the pros are taller than me, so it’s not a big surprise. It’s similar player to Kendrick, little bit better from the baseline. I have to control the point, return a lot of serves back, play long points, [and] try to take the first short ball.”

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