- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fernando Gonzalez was initially scheduled to play his Legg Mason Classic quarterfinal match against Tommy Haas at noon, recharge while Juan Martin del Potro took on Robin Soderling and then compete with Tommy Robredo in the doubles quarterfinals.

Shortly before beginning his battle with Haas on Friday, Gonzalez found out that an elbow injury forced Soderling to withdraw. What Gonzalez hadn’t been told was that he would have to play his doubles match almost immediately after his singles tilt.

“I didn’t realize until after the match,” said Gonzalez, who is ranked 11th in the world and is the No. 4 seed this week.

Gonzalez defeated Haas in straight sets - 7-5, 6-4 - and had all of 66 minutes between hitting the winner and receiving the first serve against Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic. Considering he had to go on TV briefly and warm up for the doubles match, Gonzalez barely had enough time to do anything during the break.

“I had a little treatment on my knee and just ate something,” he said.

Robredo and Gonzalez lost to the reigning Wimbledon champions, ending Gonzalez’s bid to become the first player to win singles and doubles titles in the District. In an era when fewer and fewer top players take part in both events, it’s increasingly unlikely anyone will accomplish that feat.

Gonzalez said he prefers to stay sharp by playing doubles, even with his injury history. He has been plagued with tendinitis in his right knee for seven years and is only playing his ninth event of 2009.

“It’s important to get in a rhythm, try to compete,” the 29-year-old said. “For me, it’s more fun to play a doubles match than it is for me to practice.”

His knee flared up at Wimbledon, leading to a disappointing third-round exit and a monthlong layoff.

“I didn’t feel in good shape - it was painful for me,” Gonzalez said. “But after that, I took many weeks off, and it’s helped me a lot.”

That much was evident against Haas. Gonzalez hit multiple forehand winners and won more than 80 percent of points on his first serve. Meanwhile, Haas only saved two of five break points and was broken two consecutive service games, allowing Gonzalez to serve out the first set and take an early lead in the second.

Haas attributed some of his struggles to a lack of focus, but he also said Gonzalez - who is undefeated in five quarterfinal matches this year - was playing at close to top form.

“He was hitting the ball pretty hard from the forehand side,” Haas said. “He is a very tough player to face. It is really hard to do anything when he starts hitting forehands.”

The next test for Gonzalez will be trying to bounce back Saturday against del Potro, who played two fewer matches Friday.

“I have many hours to recover,” he said. “It’s not like [Thursday] - finish at 9 [p.m.], start today at noon - but it’s tough.”

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