Estoril, Portugal - American James Blake handed himself a first clay-court quarter-final since Rome a year ago as he defeated Frenchman Marc Gicquel 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 on Thursday at the Estoril Open.
The 29-year-old has not been this far on his least favourite surface since May, 2008, when he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka at the Foro Italico.
Blake now stands a solid 2-2 on dirt after arriving for his Portugal debut 0-2 with losses in Houston a month ago and Rome last week.
The Florida-based player with 11 titles - ten on fast courts and six in the US - was unruffled by nine Gicquel aces as he ran his record against the number 51 to 2-0.
Blake broke twice in 79 minutes to advance comfortably in hot sunshine which has characterised the week and helped speed up conditions.
He next plays the winner from another Frenchman, eighth seed Florent Serra, or Argentine Juan Monaco.
Three seeds lost on the women's side as the semi-finals took shape.
Israeli Shahar Peer, seeded seventh, beat Jarmila Groth of Slovakia 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 to face off Friday against Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, a winner over number three Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
Russian sixth seed Ekaterina Makarova beat holder Maria Kirilenko 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 and will aim for the first title of her career when she takes on Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
The German advanced as compatriot and Charleston clay champion Sabine Lisicki, seeded fourth, quit quit trailing 6-2 with a shoulder injury. (dpa)