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TENNIS

Dudi Sela advances to quarterfinals at L.A. Tennis Open

He defeats Kendrick in three sets and will face Sam Querrey next.

July 31, 2009|Diane Pucin

Dudi Sela is only 5 feet 9 and his biography says he weighs 147 pounds, but whether that is before or after dinner is the question.

He will play 6-foot-6 Sam Querrey today in a men's quarterfinal match at the L.A. Tennis Open. If Querrey were to stand in front of Sela, the 24-year-old Israeli might disappear.

A question about how it is to be so small when most of his opponents are much taller draws only a shoulder shrug from Sela and the observation that his parents produced a brother who is much taller.

"I don't know what I did wrong," Sela said Thursday after he had beaten American Robert Kendrick, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. "My brother, he's 6-2. I don't know what happened."

Querrey moved into the quarterfinals after a nervous 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3 win over Ryan Sweeting, a 22-year-old qualifier.

Also advancing to today's quarterfinals were Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, who survived to win a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-3 match over Igor Kunitsyn of Russia, and second-seeded Mardy Fish, who beat wild-card entrant Chris Guccione of Australia, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (12), 6-4 in a 2-hour, 22-minute match.

Guccione almost put a big dent in the draw. He had three match points in the second-set tiebreak, mostly thanks to his big serve (the Aussie had 24 aces in the match).

But after the marathon second set, Fish broke Guccione's serve in the first game of the third set and held that advantage to the end. Afterward, Fish said he considered himself "lucky" for being able to win that second-set tiebreak.

Fish, who has been working through an injury to his right side, must recover quickly to beat the hard-hitting 22-year-old Mayer this afternoon.

Mayer is known to U.S. fans as the guy who eliminated James Blake in the first round of the French Open last May.

This has been a tennis season of huge accomplishment for Sela. He is not a household name in the United States. He is ranked 30th in the world and is seeded fourth in this tournament.

But it is Israel's massive Davis Cup results that have pleased Sela the most.

His team beat Sweden in Malmo, Sweden, last spring in a Davis Cup match that was played in front of an empty arena because of an uproar about fellow Israeli Shahar Peer's exclusion from a tournament in the Arab nation of Dubai. Swedish tennis officials had said the decision was taken for the safety of the Israeli team.

The bigger upset came earlier this month when Israel, with the help of Sela, eliminated heavily favored Russia in Tel Aviv to advance to the semifinals for the first time.

Sela said the matches in Sweden were "weird" and he considered the decision to ban fans from the arena as "a bad decision for them, a very bad decision."

At the Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA on Thursday, Sela was enthusiastically cheered.

So was Querrey, who survived a poorly played second set against Sweeting.

"I lost focus in the second set," Querrey said.

"I was kind of bummed that happened. Then, he kind of lost focus."

Querrey has made the finals of the last two tournaments he has played and the 21-year-old, who turned down a USC tennis scholarship in 2006 to turn pro instead, said he was satisfied with his summer season so far.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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