ESTORIL: American James Blake continued his fine form on clay by reaching the first European clay final of his career with a 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3 win over Nikolay Davydenko at the Estoril Open on Sunday.
Blake, who had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals on the continent before, won a rain-delayed semifinal over two days.
Blake trailed by a set to 2003 winner Davydenko but took a 4-2 lead in the second before darkness on Saturday finally forced the contest off court after a frustrating afternoon of rain. Davydenko, who lost the 2008 final to Roger Federer at the Estadio Nacional, levelled at 4-4 upon their return as the Russian’s vast experience on the surface looked like paying off.
But the newly confident Blake fought through a second-set tiebreaker, sweeping into a third set after the Russian put a backhand wide.
Blake consolidated in the third set, sewing up his personal best performance on the surface in two and a half hours.
The American and Montanes have never met, while the 28-year-old Spaniard tries to improve a 13-13 season record and bids for a second title from a sixth career final.
Blake holds a 10-12 career record in finals as he plays only his second on clay after losing last year in Houston.
Blake becomes the second American to reach an Estoril final since Todd Martin in 1999.
The results: At Estoril (Estoril Open): Semifinals: James Blake bt Nikolay Davydenko 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3.
At Madrid (ATP Madrid Masters & WTA Madrid Open): First round: Women: Samantha Stosur bt Agnieszka Radwanska 7-6(4), 6-1; Elena Vesnina bt Alizé Cornet 7-5, 6-1; Lucie Safarova bt Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 2-3 retired.; Patty Schnyder bt Sara Errani 6-2, 6-3; Li Na bt Carla Suárez Navarro 5-7, 6-1, 7-5; Petra Kvitova bt Sybille Bammer 4-1 retired; Aravane Rezai bt Tsvetana Pironkova 6-3, 6-4. — Agencies