Davenport cruises into second round

August 22, 2006 08:32 PM
James Blake 225 w

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- James Blake had the crowd behind him all night. Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo had all the shots he needed for the upset.

The unseeded Spaniard ousted the Pilot Pen's favorite son and defending champion 2-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) Tuesday night. Blake, who grew up in nearby Fairfield, squandered five match points, including two in the first tiebreaker.

Some of his fans, sporting blue T-shirts, packed a corner of the Connecticut Tennis Center, dubbed the "J-Block," chanting his name at every critical turn in the 2-hour, 23-minute second-round match.

The 25-year-old Ramirez Hidalgo, ranked 57th in the world, stole their moment with a solid baseline game, great range and an impressive second serve. Blake had a 4-0 lead in the first tiebreaker, but couldn't close it out. Ramirez Hidalgo broke Blake to send the second set into a tiebreaker and quickly fell behind 1-4. He then reeled off the next six points and clinched the match with a 113 mph second-serve ace.

Blake, ranked fifth in the world, was having the best year of his career since winning the 2005 Pilot Pen. He's won five of his six singles titles in the last 12 months. Ramirez Hidalgo is still looking for his first singles title.

Lindsay Davenport, the women's defending champion, beat Katarina Srebotnik 6-3, 6-3 to move into the second round. The seventh-seeded Davenport managed just two points in the first two games before gaining momentum.

"I just got off to a little bit of a slow start, but from love-2, I lost just one more game that set," she said. "Overall, it was a good performance considering the amount of time I've played the last six or seven months."

It was the only the ninth match of the year for the former No. 1 player, who has battled injuries throughout the season. Bulging disks in her back sidelined her in March and a concussion sustained from a fall at her Los Angeles home kept her out of Wimbledon. She's banking on a solid outing at New Haven, the final hard-court tuneup before next week's U.S. Open.

Lindsay Davenport 225 w
"This was really my target tournament, so I'm happy with the goal of coming here and winning a match and playing better," she said. "I feel like I've improved a lot over the last couple of weeks and I feel like I'll learn a lot from this and hopefully carry it with me."

Davenport charged out to a 3-0 lead in the second set with pinpoint passing and a solid service game. She appeared on the verge of cruising into the second round until Srebotnik, ranked 23rd in the world, dug in. Down 4-1, Srebotnik survived three break points, holding serve on a cross-court winner. But she was unable to break Davenport and has now lost all three head-to-head meetings.

In other women's action, Mara Santangelo went from lucky loser to upset winner, beating eighth-seeded Anastasia Myskina of Russia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Ranked No. 40 in the world, the 25-year-old Italian won a spot in the women's draw despite losing in the qualifiers when Dinara Safina pulled out with an elbow injury.

In the men's draw, American Mardy Fish's run ended in a three-set, second-round loss to fifth-seeded David Ferrer, who beat the American 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5).

It was the third meeting between the two and the first time the 13th-ranked Ferrer has beaten Fish.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the women's fifth seed, also avoided an upset, showing some stamina in the process. In her second consecutive three-set match, she outlasted Tatiana Golovin of France, 6-0, 2-6, 6-4.

"I just didn't want to lose, even though it's not a Grand Slam," Kuznetsova said. "I like this tournament and I want to hang in here."