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July 31, 2009

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Isner extends hot run, Safin rallies in LA

BIG-SERVING American John Isner continued his red-hot run at the Los Angeles Open with a 6-3, 7-6 victory over Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round on Wednesday.

A day after eliminating seventh-seeded German Benjamin Becker, Isner overcame former world No. 8 Baghdatis and a late ankle injury with another confident display at the LA Tennis Center.

Although Baghdatis saved five match points in the second set tiebreak, the 2.05-meters American scraped through 13-11 to seal the win in one hour, 50 minutes.

"I stayed calm and didn't panic even though I had two match points on my serve in the tiebreak," a beaming Isner told reporters. "It was a high-quality match and I played well."

The towering American sprained his left ankle as Baghdatis levelled the tiebreak at 10-10, prompting his opponent to rush across the net after Isner fell to the ground at the baseline.

"He hit a serve out wide and then he hit a shot behind me and my left foot went the other way," Isner said. "I thought it was worse than it is. But I have tomorrow off and I will see how it feels. This is my favorite time of the year and I enjoy playing on hard courts," added the 24-year-old, who reached his first ATP semifinal of the season in Indianapolis last week.

"I was serving and hitting my forehand really well. I was happy to come out with a victory."

Isner unleashed 11 aces to advance to his fourth quarterfinal this year and will next meet Australian qualifier Carsten Ball.

World No. 205 Ball booked his place in the last eight for the first time on the circuit when third-seeded Russian Dmitry Tursunov, retired hurt with a back injury while trailing 4-6, 0-1 in their encounter.

Eighth-seeded Russian Marat Safin also advanced, reaching the quarters for the third successive year in Los Angeles after coming from a set down to beat Latvian Ernests Gulbis 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Former world No. 1 Safin, playing on the ATP circuit this season for the last time, trailed 0-2 in the final set before twice breaking Gulbis and then serving out for victory in one hour, 45 minutes.

In the last eight, the Russian will face top-seeded German Tommy Haas, who crushed American wildcard Jesse Levine 6-1, 6-3 in his first match since losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semifinals. Champion in 2004 and 2006, Haas swept through the first set in 25 minutes before wrapping up the win in just over an hour.


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