Former world No. 4 James Blake dethroned eighth-seeded defending champion David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the third round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
Blake, who won two matches at an ATP event for only the second time this year, has risen from 173rd to 90th in the rankings since March. The 31-year-old American fired seven aces, while hitting 62 percent of his first serves.
“That’s the best I have served in probably two years,” Blake said. “Today was a whole level better than yesterday and it had to be.”
Argentina’s Nalbandian, a former world No. 3, has slid to 27th after surgery earlier this year to repair a hernia and a torn left leg muscle. He managed to connect on only 49 percent of his first serves.
“My serve didn’t work very good in the beginning,” Nalbandian said. “It was tough. Second set I served better, but a little late. I was OK. I just need matches to be in good shape again.”
Blake broke in the second and fourth games of the first set, and again to open the second set. He denied Nalbandian on all three of his break point chances to win after 72 minutes.
“I couldn’t let off the accelerator for one second,” Blake said.
Blake advanced to a third-round meeting with big-serving compatriot John Isner, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Germany’s Tobias Kamke.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you play, he’s going to take the racket out of your hands,” Blake said. “It’ll be another time to keep plugging away, wait for my opportunities, take something away from them.”
India’s Somdev Devvarman, the reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games champion, advanced to the second round by beating Germany’s Denis Gremelmayr 6-2, 6-3.
Devvarman, a 26-year-old who last week was ranked a career-best 62nd in the world, will next face seventh-seeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, last year’s Washington runner-up.
Ryan Sweeting of the US put himself into the path of French top seed Gael Monfils with a first-round triumph.
Sweeting ousted countryman Alex Bogomolov 6-2, 6-4 to reach a second-round date against seventh-ranked Monfils, among 16 players to receive an opening-round bye.
“Definitely the fastest person I’ve seen in most sports,” Sweeting said. “I’m going to have to play well and stay aggressive. It’s going to be a tough match. If I hit a great shot, I’ve got to expect it’s coming back at me. If I just sit back, he’s going to run for days and make me look like an idiot.”
Sweeting captured his first ATP title in April, winning the US Clay Court Championships in Houston, and he has found his serving rhythm after troubles all year.
“I was seeing the ball well,” he said. “I served well. I have been working on my serve a lot. I have been struggling with it all year.”
US wild-card Ryan Harrison defeated Germany’s Mischa Zverev 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 to book a second-round date with Serbian third seed Viktor Troicki. Harrison is among a hungry set of young US players with something to prove.
“The US work ethic is back,” Harrison said. “Some of the American guys are working hard to maximize their potential. We know what people say about Americans, that we are lazy, and we’re out to prove that it’s not true.”
Chilean Fernando Gonzalez pulled out with knee tendinitis and was replaced by Bosnian Amer Delic barely 90 minutes before a first-round match with Germany’s Tommy Haas, who advanced 6-2, 6-3 in his continuing comeback from hip surgery.