Novak pulls off upset

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 1 (UPI) -- Eighth-seeded Jiri Novak recorded his first victory in five career meetings with second-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov Friday, downing the Russian in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships, 6-1, 6-1.

"I was just trying to play my best tennis, I had nothing to lose," Novak said. "Today, I don't think he was in good shape because otherwise it cannot happen that I beat him 6-1, 6-1."


Turning 27 later this month, Novak reached his third semifinal of the year. He made the final four at Auckland and recorded his career-best performance at a Grand Slam event, making the semifinals at Australian Open.

"For sure I have won a lot of matches, beaten a lot of good players and I have much more confidence. I believe in myself and my game," Novak said.

Novak has moved into the quarterfinals in five of his seven outings on the ATP Tour this year. He also made the last eight at Doha and Copenhagen.

"I tried hard and unfortunately for every question, he had an answer," Kafelnikov said. "He played great -- didn't miss any points, played faster. He used normally my weapons against me today. I tried to do everything, serve and volley, but it was unpleasant to be on the court. I felt really terrible."


Kafelnikov, who finished fourth in the 2001 ATP Champions Race, has struggled in the opening two months of 2002, advancing to only one semifinal -- Marseille -- in five tour appearances.

Novak will face Fabrice Santoro in the semifinals. The Frenchman outdueled Croatian Ivan Ljubicic, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to make the final four here for the second time. Santoro was the runner-up at Dubai in 1993.

No. 3 Thomas Johansson of Sweden won 12 of the last 15 games to defeat No. 5 Tim Henman of Britain, 6-4, 6-3.

Johansson, the reigning Australian Open champion, was trailing in the opening set, 4-0, before capturing nine straight games to reverse the course of the match.

"I think Tim came up with some believable shots in the beginning. I don't think he made one unforced error. I didn't serve very well," Johansson said. "But then I decided to take some chances because I was struggling to get a game. Then, the match turned around."

In the semifinals, Johansson will meet Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui, who rallied past Germany's Rainer Schuettler, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-3.


Johansson beat El Aynaoui in January on the way to claiming his first Grand Slam title at Melbourne.

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