- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

HOUSTON (AP) - Lleyton Hewitt beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4 Friday to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships at River Oaks Country Club.

It wasn’t easy. Hewitt was serving for the match in the eighth game but was broken on Garcia-Lopez’s crosscourt forehand winner at break point. Hewitt served for the match again in the 10th game and squandered three match points before his forehand winner ended the match. It gave Hewitt 497 career victories, far outdistancing the three other semifinal players, who have a combined 122 career victories.

In other matches, Bjorn Phau beat Tommy Haas 6-3, 3-6, 6-3; Evgeny Korolev beat Guillermo Canas 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Wayne Odesnik outlasted John Isner 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

In Saturday’s semifinals, Odesnik will face Phau in the first match.

Hewitt, formerly ranked No. 1, is trying to reach his first final since he won at Las Vegas in 2007. Last year, Hewitt had a string of 10 years with at least one victory snapped. He has been coming back from hip surgery and currently carries a No. 88 world ranking.

Hewitt had to overcome five break points in his first three serves of the match. He was broken in the fifth game of the opening set but he broke Garcia-Lopez in the fourth and eighth games.

“From 3-2 in the first set to 5-1 in the second, I played great,” Hewitt said. “He started going for everything because he had nothing to lose. He was swinging from the hips. It made the match hard to close out.”

Phau came close to breaking Haas twice in the final set and finally got the lead in the seventh game when Haas double-faulted at break point. Phau won on the first match point when Haas hit a forehand into the net, ending the 1 hour, 56 minute match.

Haas escaped two break points in the opening game of the third set. He eventually held with an ace on the final point. Haas also held in a 14-point third game, although he never faced a break point.

“My serve let me down in the third set,” Haas said. “I’m thankful for the wild card. I got to play a couple of matches on clay but I’m sick of losing after 13 years. I want to get my team together and see what happens. I have a hard time playing here. Every time you go for a shot it is risky. He moves better than I do so he has a better chance to get back on the points. To tell you the truth, I’m glad it’s over.”

Phau is appearing in his fourth career semifinal.

“Today was my best match,” Phau said. “Yesterday, I was the favorite and I was fighting my game. Today, I had nothing to lose. To be honest, I didn’t have too many expectations. I didn’t have too much time to prepare. Now, I’ve already taken a big step.”

Odesnik won his third straight match of the tournament, equaling his total for the year. Odesnik also made the second semifinal of his career. He was a semifinalist here last year.

“He puts a lot of pressure on you to hold serve,” Odesnik said. “He takes some pretty big cuts at the ball and if they go in, it’s not easy to defend.”

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