Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Gasquet wins birthday match

WARMUP After an early exit in Halle last week, the Frenchman celebrated his 21st birthday by moving into the second round of the Nottingham Open

AP , NOTTINGHAM, ENGLANDAP, EASTBOURNE, ENGLANDAP, DEN BOSCH, NETHERLANDSAP, WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND

Richard Gasquet of France returns the ball during his first-round match against Vince Spadea of the US at the Nottingham Open tennis tournament in Nottingham, England, on Monday.

PHOTO: AP

Richard Gasquet began the defense of his Nottingham Open title on Monday by beating Vincent Spadea of the US 6-3, 6-4.

The top-seeded Frenchman, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday, is seeking a third consecutive title at Nottingham, a grass-court warmup for Wimbledon.

Gasquet fought back after dropping his serve early in the first set and was rarely troubled afterward to advance to the second round.

"Spadea is never easy to play against," Gasquet said. "I am really happy to get my first win here, especially with it being my birthday. It is a special day for me."

"I wasn't confident because I played badly last week. I had to play a great match to win. It is not easy to play against him and it's nice for me to win again here. I like the court and the atmosphere," he said.

Gasquet lost in the first round of the grass-court tournament in Halle, Germany, last Tuesday.

Also in the first round, Sebastien Grosjean of France beat fifth-seeded Dominik Hrbaty 6-3, 6-4, and Gilles Simon of France beat Andrei Pavel of Romania 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Rain suspended play later in the day with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain leading Alex Bogdanovic of Britain 6-4, 0-1.

Fifth-seeded Nicole Vaidisova fought off a strong challenge from Australian Samantha Stosur 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the second round of the Eastbourne International on Monday.

In the only other first-round matches, Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic edged Anna-Lena Groenefeld 7-6 (0), 7-6 (5), leaving the German with only four wins this year, and Alicia Molik, who has struggled to return from a career-threatening inner-ear infection, surrendered a match point as she slumped to a 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) defeat by 204th-ranked wild card Melanie South.

Vaidisova and Stosur struggled to find any rhythm, and after an exchange of breaks at 2-2, Stosur took the next three games to claim the first set.

Stosur failed to maintain her momentum as the second set got under way, hitting two double faults as the Czech broke at love to lead 1-0. Stosur leveled at 2-2, but Vaidisova went on to level on sets by breaking to lead 5-4 and giving up just one point in the last three games of the set.

In the final set, Vaidisova failed to convert five break points in a nine-deuce game at 1-1, but then broke to lead 3-2 when Stosur mis-hit a forehand.

"She came out hitting well and for me it was the first match on grass and getting used to it again," said Vaidisova, a French Open quarterfinalist. "It was a little fight but I got through it and that's what counts, and I'm ready for my next match."

Groenefeld, who hit 15 double faults and has lost her last five first-round matches, broke to lead 5-4 in the opening set but then served three double faults as Safarova leveled at 5-5. Games went with serve in the second set as Groenefeld held off a break point at 0-1, before the Czech again claimed the tiebreaker.

Ivan Ljubicic rallied to beat Gael Monfils of France 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 on Monday in the first round of the grass-court Ordina Open.

Monfils served 10 aces in the first set, but the second-seeded Croat broke once to take the second before shutting out the Frenchman in the final set.

On the women's side, defending champion Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands beat Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-3, 6-2 on a rain-interrupted day at the Wimbledon warm-up tournament.

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