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Del Potro Prevails Against Hewitt To Reach QF; Haas Advances

Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Haas© Getty ImagesTommy Haas is through to his fourth straight tour-level quarter-final.

The highly anticipated match between past Legg Mason Tennis Classic champions Juan Martin del Potro and Lleyton Hewitt lived up to its billing Thursday afternoon at the ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament, decided in a third set tie-break after Hewitt saved two match points midway through the decisive set.

Defending champion Del Potro, who lost to his childhood idol earlier this year at Wimbledon, held two chances to close out the match at 5-3 on Hewitt’s serve but saw the Aussie quickly negate the lead as he hit back to win the next eight points. With a clean slate in the tie-break, the 20-year-old Argentine brushed aside his earlier lapse in concentration and won the final five points to clinch the 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2) victory over the 2004 champion.

World No. 6 Del Potro, the No. 2 seed this week, has been one of the toughest competitors on the circuit since his meteoric rise up the South African Airways ATP Rankings last summer when he won four straight ATP World Tour titles – including Washington (d. Troicki) – before seeing his 23-match winning streak snapped in the US Open quarter-finals by Andy Murray.

He has continued his strong showing this season, opening his campaign with the hard-court title at Auckland (d. Querrey) and reaching the quarter-finals in 10 of his 12 main-draw appearances.

Del Potro’s next opponent, No. 5 seed Robin Soderling of Sweden, was also made to work hard for a quarter-final spot against Frenchman Marc Gicquel, toiling for more than two hours before closing out a 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 win. Del Potro defeated Soderling in the Auckland semi-finals this past January to even the head-to-head series at 1-all.

The 24-year-old Swede has compiled a 20-4 record since the start of May, with three of those losses coming against Roger Federer. He made a remarkable run to the Roland Garros final, handing four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal his first loss at the tournament, and last month won his fourth ATP World Tour title on home soil in Bastad.

German Tommy Haas prevailed 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 against Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero in a third-round meeting between rejuvenated former Top 10 players. The 10th-seeded Haas raced out to a 5-0 lead in the decisive set before closing out the match on serve in one hour and 43 minutes.

Haas, who reached a career-high No. 2 ranking in 2002, and Ferrero, who held down the World No. 1 for eight weeks the following year, have both recently rediscovered the form that once carried them into the top echelon of the sport. The two veterans returned to the winner’s circle this season, each capturing their 12th ATP World Tour titles – Haas on grass in Halle (d. Djokovic) and Ferrero on clay at Casablanca (d. Serra). Ferrero was also a finalist on Sunday at the clay-court tournament in Umag (l. to Davydenko).

The 31-year-old Haas has been in dangerous form since the end of May, winning 17 of his past 20 matches beginning at Roland Garros. His three losses have come against the eventual tournament champions, to Federer in the Roland Garros fourth round and Wimbledon semi-finals and to Sam Querrey last week in the Los Angeles semi-finals.

He will attempt to reach his fourth straight tour-level semi-final when he next confronts fourth-seeded Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, who leads the lifetime series 2-1. The World No. 11 booked his place in the quarter-finals courtesy of a 6-2, 6-4 win over American Wayne Odesnik.

The 29-year-old Gonzalez is playing in just his ninth tournament of the season and first since Wimbledon, electing to play less in order to be 100 per cent in each of his appearances (see video). He has a 26-7 record, highlighted by the clay-court title in his home country tournament at Vina del Mar and semi-final results at his three stops on the European clay-court circuit.

In the only doubles match Tuesday, the fifth-seeded Polish team of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski defeated Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins 6-4, 7-5 to reach the semi-finals. Fyrstenberg and Matkowski, winners of the grass-court title at Eastbourne earlier this season, are making their first appearance in Washington.

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