The Desert Sun – Marc 15, 2003 – Leighton Ginn – INDIAN WELLS – Reaching the semifinals of a Tennis Masters Series event has been two years in the making for Vince Spadea.

After overcoming a record 21-match losing streak and regaining the confidence that made him a promising prospect, Spadea did just that Friday afternoon.

Spadea defeated fellow qualifier Brian Vahaly 6-3, 6-2 in the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden to reach his first Masters Series semifinal.

It’s a bigger accomplishment considering where Spadea came from. For a two-year stretch, Spadea struggled with his game and it snowballed into his ATP record losing streak in 2000.

“I was floundering for two years and actually moving in the wrong direction to the extreme,” Spadea said. “It wasn’t like I had excuses like I was really injured for a year and I lost my whole ranking because I didn’t play. In some ways, I was out there making myself a worse tennis player for some reason.”

Battling a shoulder injury and admittedly not 100 percent, Spadea said he lost to some quality players during that period. After a while, his confidence started hurting.

“But the broadcast of the actual losing streak was so significant that it helped me in a way,” Spadea said. “I wasn’t aware of it until it started to get sort of way down the road, toward Wimbledon.”

Spadea ended his streak by beating Greg Rusedski in the first round of Wimbledon. Yet, things continued to spiral downward as Spadea finished the year with a 3-28 record.

Since that time, Spadea started to work with Dr. Pete Fisher and a tennis psychologist to regain his form.

In 1999, Spadea reached a career-best ranking of 19 and reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Spadea was blessed with a good draw at the Pacific Life Open. After winning two matches in qualifying, he defeated No. 12 Paradorn Srichaphan then three qualifiers.

“But at the same time, I’ve shown that I’ve beaten top-10 players over the years consistently,” Spadea said. “If anything, the jury was out based on how I would go through a tournament like this (against) players who were beatable, less highly ranked. If anything, it might be bigger than what I had done in the past when I made the quarters a few times in the Tennis Masters Series, when I beat two top-10 guys per those tournaments.”

Spadea will get his biggest test when he takes on No. 1 and defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals today.

Spadea hasn’t played Hewitt since 1999 and is winless in two meetings, but he’s giving himself a fighting chance.

“I feel like if I’m on, I can be competitive with anyone,” Spadea said. “I’ve beaten world No. 1s before.”

Hewitt advanced by beating another American qualifier in Robby Ginepri 6-4, 6-2.

With the victory, Hewitt retained his No. 1 ranking on the ATP entry system. If Hewitt failed to reach the semifinals, Andre Agassi would have moved into the top spot.