It may not look like a record to offer encouragement but James Blake believes that he will take valuable lessons from his past encounters with the world No 1 Roger Federer into their meeting in the quarter-finals of the Nasdaq-100 Open.
Although Federer has won all three of their matches and Blake has yet to take a set off him, the American drew some positives from their final at Indian Wells 11 days ago. Federer won 7-5, 6-3, 6-0, but only after Blake had broken serve twice to take a 4-1 lead in the first set.
"I learnt that I can play with him," Blake said here after beating Juan Ignacio Chela to earn his third meeting in seven months with Federer, who secured his own passage with a comfortable victory over Dmitry Tursunov.
"I obviously had chances in the first set. I was playing pretty well. But it's a matter of keeping that level up, not getting ahead of yourself, not thinking too much about it or thinking about everything he can do, because he can obviously do just about anything with a tennis racket in his hand.
"But on a given day, hopefully, so can I. I need to know that it's possible and know that I have no pressure on me and not think any differently if I'm up a break, two breaks, a set, whatever. And if I get down, I have to try to stop the momentum. He got a lot of momentum going at the end of that match, and he really knows how to front-run."
Blake, who will be playing Federer for the right to meet Andy Roddick or David Ferrer in the semi-finals, promised much for several years but injury and illness halted his progress. His world ranking had dropped to No 210 last April, but a run of good form after titles in Mississippi and New York in May carried over into 2006 with wins in Sydney and Las Vegas. His ranking is now at a career-best No 9.
Amelié Mauresmo maintained her serene progress with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Nadia Petrova. Mauresmo has yet to drop a set and has lost only 15 games in her four matches here. In the semi-finals she faces Svetlana Kuznetsova, the former US Open champion, who beat the world No 1 for the first time in Dubai last month.
Tatiana Golovin became the second Frenchwoman to reach the last four when she beat China's Jie Zheng 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 yesterday. Zheng hit some fine groundstrokes and mixed up her game with lobs and drop shots, but the 18-year-old Golovin picked up a stream of points whenever she enticed Zheng into the net.Reuse content