Thu, Jan 04, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Pless upsets No. 8 Nalbandian

STIRRING RALLY The Danish player came back from losing the first set to take the next two after his opponent squandered a 3-0 lead in the third set

AP , MADRAS, INDIA

Kristian Pless of Denmark reacts after winning a game against David Nalbandian of Argentina during their singles match at the ATP Chennai Open tennis championship in Chennai, India, on Tuesday. Pless won the match 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.

PHOTO: EPA

Danish player Kristian Pless scored the biggest victory of his career on Tuesday when he knocked out second-seeded and world No. 8 David Nalbandian in the opening round of the ATP Tour's Chennai Open.

Pless, 25, ranked No. 85 on the ATP list, rallied from a first-set deficit to clinch a 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 win after Nalbandian from Argentina squandered a 3-0 lead in the deciding third set.

"I'm absolutely delighted as this is the first time I've beaten a top-10 player," said Pless, who was surprised to get so many easy points as a result of Nalbandian's unforced errors.

World No. 2 and top-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain began his year by defeating Rainer Schuettler of Germany 6-4, 6-2.

Two-time winner and fifth seed Carlos Moya of Spain also moved into the second round with a 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over German Alexander Waske.

Sixth-seeded Frenchman Fabrice Santoro had an easier first-round match as his Czech opponent David Skoch retired because of back stress in the first set when Santoro led 3-0.

Nalbandian celebrated his 25th birthday on Monday at the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium in India, but his visit to center court a day later ended in disappointment.

"I've beaten Nalbandian as a junior and had a couple of close matches against him, but the tide finally turned in my favor," said Pless, who dropped his service in the second game of the final set before bouncing back to snatch points off Nalbandian's serve in the fifth and 11th games.

Nalbandian blamed his erratic performance on tendinitis in his leg.

"I was thinking of winning in two straight sets, but Pless began playing well and my shots were no longer going deep as in the first set," said Nalbandian. "The tendinitis in my left leg also did not help. I felt the pain that had been troubling me since last year."

Nadal, 20, also had to bounce back after conceding an early service break to Schuettler, a former world No. 5 who has now slipped to 95th spot.

Schuettler, 30, capitalized on Nadal's rustiness to take the match's first break in the sixth game. Nadal struck back and wrested the next four points, including breaks on Schuettler's service in the seventh and ninth games, to claim the opening set.

The erratic Schuettler dropped service twice again in the second set -- in the first and fifth games -- as Nadal eased his way into the second round.

"This being the first outing of a new season, I wasn't 100 percent," Nadal said.

Returning to the tournament where he has been a finalist for the past three years, former champion Moya found his form in the second set.

Chennai Open's singles champion in 2004 and 2005 and the losing finalist last year, Moya exchanged service breaks with Waske at the start and had to wait until the tiebreaker to clinch the opening set. But snatching a point on Waske's service in the sixth game was enough for Moya to claim the second set.

"I had a hard time reading his game. Waske's a difficult player and had beaten me in our only previous encounter," said Moya, 30, a former world No. 1 who is currently ranked 43rd on the ATP roster.

Moya said his aim was to break into the top 20 again this year, but acknowledged it was getting tougher with so many good young players on the circuit.

"I need a goal to play well and I'm chasing a top-20 position this year," Moya said.

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