The upcoming London Olympic tennis tournament has taken a huge bite out of this week’s ATP draw, with 50th-ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire lining up as the top seed at the Los Angeles Open.
The 23-year-old, whose Wimbledon third-round appearance last month was the best Grand Slam showing of his career, heads a modest field at a tournament which has been won in the past by icons including Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Boris Becker.
Paire, who this month achieved the highest ranking of his career, is considered a rising prospect, standing 20-16 this year and reaching his first ATP final in Belgrade two months ago.
The top seed, who faces the winner of a match between Americans Jesse Levine and Michael Russell, also reached the semi-finals on grass in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, and the quarters in Auckland, New Zealand, and Casablanca, Morocco.
He has a first-round bye. Local players make up more than a quarter of the field at UCLA, with eight Americans directly into the main draw.
First day scheduling was extremely light, with Chilean Davis Cup player Paul Capdeville beating Russian Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) in a first-round match.
Eighth seed Brian Baker, who came back after six season away with injuries to reach the third round at Roland Garros, lost to compatriot Rajeev Ram 7-6 (7/3), 7-5. Italy’s Flavio Cipolla beat US teenager Jack Sock 6-3, 6-1.
Los Angeles tournament director Bob Kramer, son of late legend Jack Kramer, admits that his event is hurting this edition. He added that the situation for smaller events is not helped by an International Olympic Committee procedural change which allows four players from a country to participate instead of three.
“For the smaller events being held around the Olympics, this took quite a few more players off the board,” he said.
The tournament gave a wild card to one-time top 10 player James Blake, 32, an expectant father and ranked No. 112.
Blake won a match last week in Atlanta on a hard court against Olympic young gun Ryan Harrison, his first on the ATP tour since Nov. 1 in Basle.
Seeded second behind Paire is two-time tournament champion Sam Querrey, a southern Californian whose once-promising career has stalled in the past seasons due to injuries. He seriously cut his arm when he crashed through a glass coffee table in Bangkok, Thailand, in late 2009.
His latest problem was an elbow injury last year which limited his comeback last season to mainly Challenger events.
AP, KITZBUEHEL, Austria
Estonia’s Jurgen Zopp upset former champion Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1, 6-3 on Monday in the first round of the Bet-at-Home Cup.
The 80th-ranked Zopp raced to a 5-0 lead, before the sixth-seeded Spaniard managed to hold serve for the first time.
Garcia-Lopez had an early break in the second set, but then lost his serve four times in a row.
Earlier, Martin Klizan of Slovakia defeated Austrian wild-card Dominic Thiem 6-1, 3-6, 7-5.
The fifth-seeded Klizan failed to score a point while serving for the match at 5-3, but broke Thiem again in the final game of the match.
Filippo Volandri rallied to beat Alessandro Giannessi 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 in an all-Italian match, while Antonio Veic of Croatia routed eighth seed Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 6-1, 6-2.
Attila Balasz of Hungary downed Martin Fischer of Austria 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7/2) to set up a second-round match against Philipp Kohlschreiber.