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Blake Upsets Defending Champion Nalbandian In DC

PTI 03 Aug 2011, 11:32:23 IST

Washington, Aug 3 : James Blake's reward for upsetting defending champion David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic will be a third-round matchup against his big-serving doubles partner John Isner.

Isner beat Germany's Tobias Kamke 6-1, 6-3, while in other second-round results at the U.S. Open-tuneup event, Kevin Anderson of South Africa beat Australia's Chris Guccione 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (0) and Finn Jarkko Nieminen eliminated Russia's Igor Kunitsyn 7-5, 6-4.

Blake and Isner have faced only each other once before on the ATP tour, two weeks ago at Atlanta, and Isner pounded 30 aces en route to a three-set victory. There's little subtlety to the 2.03-meter (6-foot-9) Isner's game—and Blake knows it quite well.

The Americans live near each other in Tampa, Florida, and hit together all the time. They'll also team up in doubles on Wednesday, before heading to opposite sides of the net in singles on Thursday.

“We're practically neighbors. Last time I was home, I was eating breakfast at his house just about every morning. And he's taken so much food out of my fridge,he owes me a few thousand dollars,” Blake said. “We practice together so often that I've seen his serve a million times—and it doesn't get any easier.”

So what do you do?

“Sometimes,” Blake explained, “you've got to just guess.”

Isner, who hit a record 112 aces while winning the longest match in tennis history at Wimbledon last year, needed only six aces to get past Kamke.

Once ranked as high as No. 4, Blake won this event in 2002 and was the runner-up in 2005. But beset by a series of injuries, most recently to his right knee, he dropped to 173rd in the rankings in March and began this week at 90th.

His victory over the eighth-seeded Nalbandian, who had a first-round bye, allowed Blake to get to the third round for only the second time in 10 tournaments this season.

He dominated Nalbandian for most of their match, saving all three break points he faced and winning 31 of 39 points on his first serve.

“This is the best I've served in two years, probably,” Blake said.

There was more success for American players in first-round matches.

The 19-year-old Ryan Harrison extended his strong showing on the U.S. summer hard-court circuit by overcoming 10 double-faults to beat Mischa Zverev of Germany 6-4, 1-6, 6-1. Ryan Sweeting, who turned 24 a little more than two weeks ago, defeated Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-2, 6-4 in an all-American matchup.

Now Harrison will face No. 3-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia, while Sweeting takes on top-seeded Gael Monfils of France.

“I've never played him before, but I've seen a lot of his matches, and I know what he's about. He's one of the most talented guys on the tour; definitely the fastest person I've ever seen—in most sports,” Sweeting said.

“I'm going to have to try and finish points at the net,” Sweeting explained, “because if I just stay back, then he's just going to run for days and make me look like an idiot.”

In other matches Tuesday, Tommy Haas beat late fill-in Amer Delic 6-2, 6-3, Flavio Cipolla defeated Marsel Ilhan 7-5, 6-0, and Michael Berrer eliminated Paolo Lorenzi 7-5, 6-1.

Delic lost in qualifying but got a spot in the main draw when 2007 Australian Open runner-up Fernando Gonzalez withdrew from the tournament, citing a bad knee, a couple of hours before he was to play Haas. AP