Gilles Simon continued his excellent start to the hard court season by beating Croatian Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 last night to reach the Toronto Masters semi-finals. The in-form Frenchman next meets unseeded German Nicolas Kiefer, who crushed seventh seed James Blake 6-1, 6-2.
Simon, who shocked world No 1 Roger Federer in the second round, proved too strong for Cilic, who had beaten former champion and sixth seed Andy Roddick in the third round.
The 22-year-old has had a remarkable run on the North American hard courts, winning nine matches in 11 days and capturing his second title this year with a straight-sets win over Russian Dmitry Tursunov in Indianapolis last Sunday.
"I haven't realised yet what is happening," Simon said. "I'm just so confident, I want to win every match even if I'm tired. I know I'm playing very well at the moment so I want to try to win more matches to have a better ranking at the end of the week."
Simon is currently ranked 22nd in the world but could surge into the top 15 if he picks up the trophy tomorrow.
Kiefer, searching for his first title in eight years, was in top form against Blake as he powered into the semi-finals of this event for the third time in his career.
Once ranked as high as number four in the world, the 31-year-old German has shown glimpses of his old form in Toronto by knocking out three seeds including Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny. His best effort was a one-hour demolition job on Blake, though.
The American held his opening serve before Kiefer reeled off six games in a row. The first four games of the second set were then shared until Kiefer clinched four in a row to secure victory.
"Every day I go out on court healthy is a great day," Kiefer said. "Everything today was good, a short day at the office. I have been playing pretty good and getting better day by day."
In Los Angeles, the top seed Jelena Jankovic remained on course to become the world's top-ranked player when she eased to a 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Melinda Czink in the third round of the Los Angeles Classic. Victory at this event will allow the 23-year-old Serb to leapfrog her compatriot Ana Ivanovic in the world rankings and her task was made easier when third seed Anna Chakvetadze was beaten by Sybille Bammer in three sets. Russia's Vera Zvonareva also lost, the fifth seed going out 6-4, 7-5 to countrywoman Nadia Petrova, who lined up a quarter-final showdown against Jankovic.
Playing her first tournament since injuring her knee at Wimbledon, Jankovic dominated her left-handed Hungarian opponent, controlling the rallies and sending down seven aces. "If I could hit this serve every day like that, my life would be so much easier," said Jankovic. "You don't have to break a sweat and you're winning games. There's no pain in my knee and I'm really happy about that."
Russia's Chakvetadze, however, suffered the pain of defeat and was clearly frustrated by her performance against the Austrian 14th seed following her 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 loss.
"She [Bammer] didn't do anything special," Chakvetadze said. "She was just putting ball in the court and I was either making mistakes or hitting winners. It was like I was playing myself. I'm disappointed. I had an open draw in this tournament and I didn't take my opportunity."
Bammer advances to face 10th seed Flavia Pennetta in the quarter-finals, while China's Yuan Meng defeated Britain's Melanie South 6-2, 6-3.