LITTLE KNOWN AMERICAN UPSETS TOP SEED HAAS

LITTLE KNOWN AMERICAN UPSETS TOP SEED HAAS

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LITTLE KNOWN AMERICAN UPSETS TOP SEED HAAS

Hewitt Retires With Shoulder Injury

By STEVE DORSEY

DELRAY BEACH – It’s inaccurate to label it a curse, but being awarded the No. 1 seed at the ATP World Tour tournament here certainly has been a bad omen during the 22-year history of the event.

Only once has a No. 1 seed won here – Mardy Fish in 2009 – and that menacing beast reared its head again Wednesday night when former collegiate standout Steve Johnson pulled off the first major singles upset at the Delray Beach Open, ousting top-seeded and world No. 12 Tommy Haas 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(2).

It’s the second time this season that Johnson has beaten a Top 20 player, the other coming last month in Auckland against then-No. 20 Kevin Anderson.

“I’ve had a few wins I’ll never forget, and this is one of them,” said Johnson, a two-time NCAA champion at the University of Southern California who is ranked No. 142 in the world and needed to win two qualifying matches this week to gain entry into the main draw of the 32-player field. “I played a good week in Dallas (Challenger) two weeks ago and I played two good matches in qualies (here).”

Johnson, who turned pro in 2012, registered 13 aces against Haas. It’s the earliest the No. 1 seed at the Delray Beach tournament has exited since Haas lost in the first round to Teymuraz Gabashvili in 2010.

[frame align=”left”]cilic_story2[/frame]Haas appeared to be struggling in the first set, but the German roared back in the second set to even the match.

“He played great the second set, and the third set I kept my composure and was able to pull out a win,” said Johnson, who cracked the ATP Top 100 for the first time last summer.

Haas said after the match that the lights at the Delray Beach Tennis Center’s Stadium Court distracted him on some shots, but praised Johnson’s performance.

“I struggled at times with the lights and my focus, but I’m not going to take anything away from (Johnson),” Haas said. “It’s a nice atmosphere at night (here), but the lights are different. I hate to lose, but I’m happy for him.”

Another seeded player was ousted in the nightcap when No. 8 seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia retired because of a right shoulder injury after losing the first set to fellow countryman Marinko Matosevic 7-6(2).

“I hope he gets better quickly. He’s one of my heroes,” said Matosevic, who reached his third quarterfinal this year and next will face No. 4 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa.

Hewitt said he injured his shoulder last week in Memphis, but was able to win his opening round match here in straight sets on Tuesday.

“It flaired up again yesterday, same as last week in Memphis,” Hewitt said. “It’s frustrating to win your first match and then have it flair up again. I’m not sure what’s going on at the moment, but I just can’t serve.”

An upset stomach and an upset in doubles on the Stadium Court highlighted the afternoon action Wednesday.

[frame align=”left”]Matosevich_story2[/frame]Anderson, No. 21 in the ATP world rankings, reached the quarterfinals when Croatian Ivo Karlovic retired because of a stomach ailment after Anderson won the first game. Karlovic was a finalist in Memphis last week.

The most stunning result of the afternoon occurred in a first-round doubles match when Americans Sekou Bangoura and Vahid Mirzadeh upset No. 2 seed Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen 7-5, 3-6, 10-5 after learning only the day before that they were in the tournament as an alternate.

“The other day I was giving lessons, and now I’m here,” said the 27-year-old Mirzadeh, who lives a short distance away in Wellington, Fla. “I was fortunate to be able to play (here). A win like this lifts your spirits and shows that maybe I can compete at this level.”

Croatian Marin Cilic, the No. 7 seed, delivered nine aces and needed only 55 minutes to oust German Benjamin Becker 6-1, 6-3 in the last of the first-round matches. Cilic now has won 14 of his 18 matches this season. He next takes on American wild card Ryan Harrison in an early Thursday afternoon match.

“I’m in good form and my confidence is boosting,” said Cilic, who is ranked No. 29 in the world after capturing the 10th title of his career at home in Zagreb and reaching the final in Rotterdam where he registered back-to-back win against world No. 6 Andy Murray and No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

While Cilic and Anderson barely broke a sweat Wednesday afternoon, No. 6 seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain had to rally from a set down to defeat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Lopez next draws Johnson in the quarterfinals.

American brothers world No. 1 Bob and Mike Bryan, the top doubles seed, breezed to a 6-1, 6-3 first-round win against Mannarino and Michael Russell.

Becker and Lopez teamed up to defeat Alex Bogomolov and Dudi Sela 6-1, 6-4 in the only other doubles match that was contested Wednesday afternoon. The wild card entry of Americans Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock advanced to the second round with a walkover after the retirement of Karlovic, who was teamed with Tomasz Bednarek in the doubles draw. Czech Frantisek Cermak and Russian Mikhail Elgin defeated Americans Bradley Klahn and Tim Smyczek 6-2, 6-2 in the other doubles match.

Thursday’s slate of matches will include an afternoon match (NB 2:30 p.m.) between No. 3 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan and Gabashvili. The evening lineup on the Stadium Court will feature American John Isner, the No. 2 seed, against Dudi Sela of Israel at 6:30 p.m., followed by Cypress wild card Marcos Baghdatis, making his second appearance in Delray Beach, against American qualifier Rhyne Williams.

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