Somdev sails into second round

Tennis: Foreign round-up: Indian youngster to face Croatias Marin Cilic

Somdev sails into second round


POWER-PACKED: Somdev Devvarman essays a backhand against Japan’s Yuichi Sugita on Monday. AFP

Somdev beat fellow qualifier Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-0, 7-6 (8-6) on Monday and will get a chance to settle scores with the sixth-seeded Croatian.

“I’m looking forward to facing him again,” said Somdev. Somdev walked off with the first set against Sugita in just 20 minutes and pocketed the first nine games of the match before his Japanese counterpart rallied to win four games in a row.

The tie-breaker turned out to be a roller-coaster ride as Somdev lost the first two points, won the next four, then conceded four points in a row to give Sugita two set points. But Somdev raised his game and grabbed the last four points to seal the match in 85 minutes.

“I should have done a better job finishing off the match,” Somdev said. “I definitely let my foot off the pedal. I let him into the match but give him some credit too -- fighting back to give himself some good looks at a third set.”

World number 153 Somdev, who reached a career-high 127 two weeks ago, won the US national college crowns in 2007 and 2008 at the nearby University of Virginia.

“I’m a better player than last year. I was fresh from school last year. I have more experience playing under adversity. That’s what makes you a better player. It’s about going through the ups and downs and learning from that. It has been challenging. I’m playing higher percentage tennis. That is helping me make gains,” Somdev said.

Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt launched his American hardcourt season by defeating Donald Young 7-5, 6-2 in the first round. Hewitt, playing for the first time since reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals, broke Young's serve five times in a row and six times overall to overwhelm the 20-year-old American.

Despite the cozy straight-sets victory, Hewitt had trouble shaking off the rust. He landed just 39 percent of his first serves and was broken three times by the 20-year-old Young, formerly the world's top-ranked junior.

Young, ranked 162nd, was successful on just 36 percent of his first serves.

The 28-year-old Hewitt, tournament champion in 2004 but unseeded this year, will play 15th seed Dudi Sela of Israel in the second round.

In other matches, Russian Mikhail Youzhny needed one hour and 40 minutes to oust American Robert Kendrick 7-5, 3-6, 6-1, while Philipp Petzschner of Germany beat Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Sharapova advances

Maria Sharapova got off to a flying start at the LA Championships on Monday, beating Slovakia's Jarmila Groth 6-0, 6-4 in the first round despite losing her way at times in a competitive second set.

Sharapova was joined in the second round by 10th seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy, a 6-2, 5-7, 6-0 victor over American Varvara Lepchenko, while Russian Anna Chakvetadze upset 11th seed Virginie Razzano of France 7-6, 6-3.

Still working to strengthen her serve following shoulder surgery last year, three-times Grand Slam champion Sharapova was at times inconsistent in the second set, but more lethal off the ground.

After the aggressive Slovakian broke Sharapova to 3-2 in the second set, the Russian pushed on again to break back at 3-3 when Groth erred on a forehand and then fought off three break points to hold to 4-3.

Sharapova then went on to win the match, breaking Groth to love to win the match with a vicious forehand return down the line. Sharapova will face third seed Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

Czech Lucie Safarova took down 15th seed Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 7-6 and American Jill Craybas took down 16th seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy 7-6, 6-2.

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