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San Jose QFs For Three Americans; Berankis Makes History

San Jose, U.S.A

Sam Querrey© Ron AngleSam Querrey is joined in the quarter-finals by compatriots Andy Roddick and Michael Russell.
It was a great day for the host nation at the SAP Open in San Jose on Thursday as three Americans advanced to the quarter-finals of the ATP World Tour 250 indoor hard-court tournament.

No. 1 seed Andy Roddick was in fine form in the evening session as he defeated Argentinian Leonardo Mayer, 6-3, 6-2, in 74 minutes. The three-time former champion didn't face a break point all match and won 87 per cent of first serve points, notching his 30th match win in San Jose and reaching the quarter-finals there for the eighth time.

"Tonight I was able to move the ball around a bit more," Roddick said. "That just comes with getting a match in, feeling a bit more comfortable.

"It was a good match-up for me… I was able to take his time away a little bit, but I didn't know much about him coming in."

Roddick now faces No. 5-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych, whom he defeated in three sets en route to the Brisbane International title last month.

"It's going to be a tough match," Roddick said. "He's especially good indoors when he can get a clean swing of the ball and everything's comfortable. We had a tough one earlier this year in Brisbane. He's one of those guys that can just come out and beat you. It could be very telling in how far one of us goes."

Seventh-seeded American Sam Querrey booked his place in the last eight, saving all four break points faced on serve to defeat countryman Taylor Dent 6-4, 6-4 in 66 minutes. Querrey's serve was particularly strong on Thursday, getting 82 per cent of his first deliveries in.

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"That's probably my highest first serve percentage [ever]," Querrey said. "Usually I'm around the 60s - so I served well today, thought I returned really well and thought I did a great job with hitting passing shots."

The 22-year-old Querrey enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2009, compiling a personal-best 41-23 mark and one title in five finals before suffering a right arm injury in a freak accident last September in Bangkok. He went 0-3 on his return this season before posting his first match win since the US Open this week against Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili.

"I've been working a lot on fitness, looking at coming to the net when I can and really try to dominate the point," Querrey added. "I feel like my net game's much better; I've been playing great doubles lately and that's helping my singles."

Querrey next plays 31-year-old Michael Russell, who joined his countryman in the quarter-finals by posting a 6-4, 7-5 win over Belgian Xavier Malisse. Although Russell reached the fourth round on his Roland Garros debut in 2001 – where he held match point against Gustavo Kuerten before falling to the eventual champion in five sets – he had never advanced to a tour-level quarter-final prior to Thursday.

Russell, who finished the 2009 season as the oldest American in the year-end Top 100 after a successful Challenger campaign that saw him win three titles in six finals, said: "I work hard, I love the game and I always check my ego at the door, and if I’m playing a Future, Challenger or ATP event I always feel the same out there."

Playing the last match for the second night in a row, No. 2 seed Fernando Verdasco overcame an early break in the first set to defeat German Benjamin Becker, 7-5, 6-2.

Verdasco's next opponent is qualifier Ricardas Berankis, who became the first Lithuanian-born player to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP World Tour tournament as he defeated German Bjorn Phau 7-6(5), 6-3.

The 19-year-old Berankis, who was the No. 1 junior in the world in 2007, capturing the US Open junior title, ended the match with a 130 mph ace.

Berankis trailed 1-4 in the first set tie-break before rallying to win six of the last seven points. In the second set, he was broken in the opening game and trailed 1-3 before closing the match with the last five games.

"It feels awesome; I'm very excited," said Berankis. "It's never over until it's over - he was leading all the time but somehow I managed to win.

"I didn't serve in the start that well - he had many opportunities to break me and he did it. But I increased the percentage of serves in the tie-break and second set. I think the serve and forehand was the key today."

Sarunas Marciulinois, BerankisBerankis had one of his country's greatest sportsmen in the stands - former NBA veteran Sarunas Marciulinois, who flew in from San Diego to watch his young countryman for the first time.

Marciulinois, one of the first Europeans to play extensively in the NBA, played with the nearby Golden State Warriors from 1989-94 and three other NBA teams. He also led the former USSR to the gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and to the bronze medal for Lithuania in 1992 and 1996 Games.

Photo above: Former NBA star Sarunas Marciulinois flew up to watch Ricardas Berankis play (© Rachael Meis, SAP Open)

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