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Americans Fish, Isner advance to Atlanta semifinals

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Giles Muller hits the ball during his match against Kevin Anderson on Friday at the Atlanta Tennis Championships at Racquet Club of the South in Norcross.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Giles Muller hits the ball during his match against Kevin Anderson on Friday at the Atlanta Tennis Championships at Racquet Club of the South in Norcross.

NORCROSS -- The upset bug had already bitten the No. 2 seed in the opening match on Friday, so top seed Mardy Fish and third seed John Isner made sure the same thing wasn't going to happen to them in Friday's quarterfinals of the 2011 Atlanta Tennis Championships at Racquet Club of the South.

After Luxembourg's Gilles Muller qualified for today's semifinals with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) upset win over the second-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa, Fish and Isner were on alert with their matches still to play.

But Fish battled his way through some threatening thunderstorms and a pesky Somdev Devvarmann of India for a 6-4, 6-3 win to move on to today's 7 p.m. semifinal matchup against Ryan Harrison, who defeated Rajeev Ram 4-6, 6-1 7-6 (5) in Friday's late match.

Fish broke the No. 8 seed Devvarman to take a 5-4 lead in the opening set and then served out the set for the 6-4 advantage.

Then it looked like Fish would roll to a quick second-set victory and close out the match, ripping off five straight games -- and seven overall including the final two games of the first set -- to take a commanding 5-0 lead.

However, Devvarman answered by winning three straight games to put the pressure back on Fish.

But the world's No. 8 ranked player responded to the challenge and served out the match, remaining alive to defend his ATC title.

"Obviously, those (storms) were pretty ominous and I was a little bit rushed," said Fish of watching a 5-0 second set lead dwindle to 5-3. "I mean, I played one bad game, but it got a little hairy there (with the weather) and I was lucky to get off."

Isner, meanwhile, was never challenged in his quick 6-1, 6-2 win over Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei and won for the seventh straight time overall after recently capturing the Campbell's Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I., and winning twice here.

Ranked No. 35 in the ATP World Rankings, Isner won in just 56 minutes and never lost serve as the former UGA star moved into today's 1 p.m. semifinal to face Muller.

Meanwhile, Lu, who had ground his way into the quarterfinals with two wins in the tournament, showed little resistance against Isner and didn't have an answer for Isner's big serve (eight aces) and strong ground strokes.

"It's good to get off the court quickly, which I didn't do in the first match," Isner said. "So I'll definitely be fresh (today). I was solid today, but to be honest, I don't think my opponent played that well today. So I'm not going to take all the credit for it. But I was happy with the way I played."

In Friday's first match, Muller, who also beat No. 7 seed American Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Marietta resident Robby Ginepri along the way, cranked out 14 aces and finished at 64 percent on his first serve.

But it was simply a matter of winning critical tie-break points that spelled the difference for Muller, who has won all four tie-breaks he has played in during the tournament, and now meets Isner today with a chance to advance to Sunday's final.

"I remember that match (last year against Muller) was so tough and I was really fortunate to win," Isner said. "He served well and he's really tough to break just like I am. So really it could come down to just a point here and there. There's a good chance we could maybe play a tie-break or two as well, just like he did today. He's obviously playing better and healthy, so this is truly anybody's match."

In doubles action, the great run by the wild card entry of UGA's Drake Bernstein and Georgia Tech's Kevin King finally came to an end in Friday's quarterfinals.

Bernstein and King, who had knocked off the No. 1 seed in Scott Lipsky and Ram in their first match, dropped a 7-6 (8), 6-1 decision to Germans Matthias Bachinger and Frank Moser.

Bernstein and King had a 5-1 lead as well as a set point at 6-5 in the first set tie-break, but couldn't close the deal and eventually lost it 10-8.

That gave Bachinger and Moser the momentum they needed as the pair rolled to an easy two-set win and moved into the today's semifinals against No. 4 seed Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins. That match will follow the Fish-Harrison match tonight.

The other semifinal pits Richard Berankis and Xavier Malisse against Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Matthew Ebden, which follows the Isner-Muller match this afternoon.

Notes: Sunday's doubles final will be played at 12:30 p.m. followed by the singles championship at 3 p.m. ... The Olympus U.S. Open Series is a set of 10 summer tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open and this is the second consecutive year that Atlanta has hosted the opening event of the series. Last year, the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek was host to the tournament after the USTA Southern section purchased the event from the ATP World Tour and moved it from Indianapolis. ... Despite the rough weather during the early evening, attendance on Thursday was 3,414 at RCS. Friday's attendance came in at 5,649 combined for the day and night sessions ... TV coverage continues today on ESPN2 from 1-3 p.m. and Tennis Channel from 7-9 p.m.