- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 5, 2006

Andy Murray, the 19-year-old British phenom, needed a little more than an hour to knock off the last American in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

Murray beat Mardy Fish 6-2, 6-4, overcoming a short second-set rally by Fish to advance to the semifinals at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

“I think today, was by far the best match I have played [at the Legg Mason],” Murray said.

Murray broke Fish’s serve four out of six opportunities, while hitting 14 winners to keep Fish off-balance most of the match. Murray dominated nearly every point, forcing Fish to play defensively until late in the second set. Trailing 5-1, Fish attempted to make a comeback but ultimately fell short.

“I think the second set — when I was 5-1 up — that was probably the best six games I have played since I have been on tour,” Murray said. “But I think the first set [Fish] didn’t play too well. He made quite a lot of mistakes.”

Fish hit 20 unforced errors and two double-faults.

This is Murray’s first time competing in the District. Since turning pro in 2003, he has climbed from No. 774 to No. 35 in the world.

When he finished the 2005 season at No. 65, Scotland’s Murray became the first British teenager to finish in the top 100 since Buster Mottram did it 21 years earlier.

After spending more than three months without a coach, Murray is now paired up with former top-5 player Brad Gilbert. Gilbert once coached Andre Agassi, and most recently Andy Roddick, before joining ESPN as a tennis commentator.

Then the Lawn Tennis Association, the British tennis governing body, called.

The LTA gave Gilbert a three-year contract worth about $940,000 a year to work with Britian’s top tennis prospects, including Murray.

But Murray and Gilbert have only begun working together this week, so drastic changes have not been made yet.

“He was the one that was saying at the start of the week that changes aren’t going to happen overnight and that he won’t be able to make a huge difference until the end of this year,” Murray said about his time with Gilbert. “But I think when you have someone like him in your corner, it gives you more confidence. Tactically he is very good and he gets me in a better frame of mind going into my matches.”

This is the third time Murray has advanced this far in a tournament this year. He won a singles title in San Jose in February after defeating Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt in the final two rounds.

Murray will face seventh-seeded Dmitry Tursunov in the semifinals today.

Tursunov handily defeated Tim Henman 6-3, 6-2 yesterday.

“It is going to be a tough match,” Murray said. “Tursonov’s best court is probably this surface on the American hard courts.”

Safin reaches semifinals

Marat Safin became the only unseeded player to advance to the semifinals after edging Wesley Moodie 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9).

Safin, once the No. 1 player in the world, has struggled with a knee injury the past two years.

But he opted out of surgery and chose rest and rehabilitation.

Safin said he was confident in his decision because he was afraid that complications from surgery could end his career.

He has not strung together so many consecutive victories since early April when he fell in the semifinals in Valencia, Spain, to Nicolas Almagro 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.

Busy day for Tursunov

In his second match of the day, Dmitry Tursunov and doubles partner Igor Kunitsyn rolled past Ramon Delgado and Rick Leach 6-4, 6-3.

Tursunov finished his quarterfinal singles victory less than an hour before the beginning of his doubles match.

Tursunov and Kunitsyn will face Bob and Mike Bryan in the semifinals today.

Hawk-Eye sees little action

As play began yesterday, the Hawk-Eye instant replay system had done its job approximately one-third of the time.

Used only on stadium court, 20 out of 63 challenges had been overturned so far in the tournament.

Players receive two challenges a set. They only lose a challenge if they use one and the call is upheld.

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