Friday, August 28, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Hard-serving Sam Querrey won the U.S. Open Series championship Wednesday by moving into the quarterfinals of the Pilot Pen tennis tournament with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Bjorn Phau of Germany.

The series ranks players using a points system based on their play in 10 selected tournaments throughout the year.

The victory gives Querrey 145 series points, enough to tie Andy Murray, who is not playing in New Haven. Querrey wins the title because he has 14 match wins in series events, to eight for Murray.

The title gives Querrey a chance to earn a bonus of between $15,000 and $1 million, to be determined by his finish in the U.S. Open.

Querrey said there won’t be any added pressure because of that.

“The most pressure I felt all summer was probably today, knowing that if I won it, I would win (the series) and if I didn’t it was third place,” he said.

He said he’s proud of the championship, but understands it’s not something that most of the top players worry about.

“I don’t think if Federer is 15 points away from winning, or Nadal, I don’t think they’re going to take a wild card into this tournament and say, ‘Hey, if I get to the quarterfinals, I’m going to win that,”’ he said. “But, I’m going to.”

The 6-foot-6 American served up 14 aces against Phau, with a serve that reached 134 mph. He won 84 percent of the points in which he managed to get his first serve in play.

Querrey will play top-seeded Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals. The Russian advanced in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3 over Fabrice Santoro of France. Santoro, who is in his 20th season on tour, plans to retire after the U.S. Open.

“I’ve never had a normal life, so I don’t know what a normal life means,” Santoro said

Second-seed Fernando Verdasco also won in straight sets, 7-6 (2), 6-2 over Andreas Seppi, in a night match that was halted twice by rain in the second set. Verdasco said he had problems with the lights early, falling behind 3-1 in the first set. He got better as the match went on, and said he was pleased that he did not lose his momentum during the rain delays, which totaled about an hour and came with him up 3-1 and 4-1 in the second set.

“I was just giving my 100 percent to try to finish the match as soon as possible,” he said. “I really played good those three last games.”

Igor Andreev also moved into the quarters by beating Frederico Gil, 6-4, 6-4. He has played in the Pilot Pen four times, and he has reached the quarterfinals four times.

In the women’s draw, top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova needed a third-set tiebreaker to beat Belgian teenager Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (2).

The French Open champion seemed to be cruising after taking 5-4 lead in the second with a match point on Wickmayer’s serve.

But the 19-year-old rallied, then broke Kuznetsova in the seventh game of the third set and was serving for the match. Kuznetsova came up with two big returns to break back, then dominated the tiebreaker.

“I knew at 5-all that if I wanted to win the match, I would have to play perfect,” Wickmayer said. “And I almost played perfectly, but I guess in the tiebreaker she was just too good for me.”

Kuznetsova acknowledged that she let her concentration lag at times, and said she sometimes needs to have her back against the wall before she plays her best tennis.

“I still have it, so I appreciate that I have it, but I have to work on closing out things when I have the chance to,” she said.

Kuznetsova will play her friend and sometimes doubles partner Amelie Mauresmo in the quarterfinals.

Two other top seeds advanced in straight sets. Caroline Wozniacki, the defending champion, dispatched Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-1, 6-4 and No. 3 Flavia Pennetta beat Iveta Benesova 7-6(1), 6-4, racking up eight aces.

“My serve helped me a lot on the important points,” Pennetta said. “I didn’t make a lot of mistakes, I was very aggressive.”

Sixth seed Marion Bartoli appeared to be cruising to victory in the final match of the night, winning her first set against qualifier Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1. But she lost the second set in a tiebreaker 7-6 (5), and then retired down 2-0 in the third with a left thigh strain as the match stretched into Thursday morning. WTA officials said Bartoli would probably be able to play in the U.S. Open next week.

Agnieszka Radwanska also retired before the third set of their match with Virginia Razzano because of a hand injury. Radwanska said she will be able to play in the U.S. Open.

Samantha Stosur, the ninth seed, lost to Elena Vesnina, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

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