Chang and Tarango through to semi-finals in Georgia

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The Independent Online

Two-time champion Michael Chang overcame a rocky first set to beat Chris Woodruff 7-6 (4), 6-1 and reach the semi-finals of the $350,000 Tennis Challenge in Duluth, Georgia.

Chang, the fourth seed, next plays eighth-seeded Andrew Ilie, who beat Stefan Koubek 7-6 (3), 6-4 in another quarter-final Friday. Koubek won the clay-court event as a qualifier last year, but was hampered on Friday by a blister on his left foot.

On the other half of the draw, seventh-seeded Jeff Tarango defeated Jiri Vanek of the Czech Republic 7-6 (3), 6-2, and Jason Stoltenberg needed just 56 minutes to oust Nicolas Massu of Chile, 6-1, 6-2.

Chang, serving for the first set at 5-3, made two forehand errors to face two break points, and then relinquished the game by netting yet another to make it 5-4.

Both players held serve into the tiebreaker, where Chang grabbed a 3-0 lead before dropping the next four points. After pulling even at 4-4, he claimed the set by capitalizing on three groundstroke errors by Woodruff.

The second set was much simpler for Chang, who broke Woodruff's serve in the first game.

Koubek, who was seeded second, moved slowly from the start of his match, but still managed toet breaker.

He fell apart midway through the second set, double-faulting on break point in the seventh game to fall behind 4-3. It was the set's lone break.

"I have a blister on the bottom of my left foot that I felt last week already and that opened up in my last match," Koubek said. "I played maybe 30 to 40 percent of my tennis. It was very tough, but I tried to come up with good shots and fight."

Tarango had lost six of seven first-round matches heading into this tournament, but continued his week's strong showing in the wet, chilly conditions.

"Before the match I couldn't have picked Vanek out of a two-man police lineup," Tarango joked about his unfamiliarity with his opponent. "I told myself to run and fight as hard as I can, I found my rhythm, and I started reading his serve better. Everything clicked."

Stoltenberg served eight aces and mixed up his shots to throw off Massut.

"I was trying to take the ball early and make the points as short as I could, trying to not let him get into a rhythm," said Stoltenberg, playing just his third tournament in seven months because of a knee injury.

Results from the $350,000 Tennis Challenge in Duluth, Georgia:

Singles Quarter-finals

Jason Stoltenberg, Australia, def. Nicolas Massu, Chile, 6-1, 6-2. Jeff Tarango (7), United States, def. Jiri Vanek, Czech Republic, 7-6 (3), 6-2. Andrew Ilie (8), Australia, def. Stefan Koubek (2), Austria, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Michael Chang (4), United States, def. Chris Woodruff (5), United States, 7-6 (4), 6-1.


Doubles Quarter-finals

Justin Gimelstob, United States, and Mark Knowles (3), Bahamas, def. Julian Alonso, Spain, and Hugo Armando, United States, 6-4, 6-1.