Tour Finals hopefuls crash out in Basel

LAST GASP::With four places in the ATP World Tour Finals yet to be decided, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka did their chances no favors by losing in the first round

AFP, BASEL, Switzerland

Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - Page 19

Stanislas Wawrinka seriously dented his hopes of reaching the ATP season final when crashing out of the Swiss Indoors with a 6-4, 6-3 first-round loss to Edouard Roger-Vasselin on Tuesday.

The same fate befell second seed Tomas Berdych, when the next man in the queue to qualify for the eight-man year-end event was beaten by Ivo Karlovic 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/2).

Berdych had a chance to serve out a three-set win, but failed and then could not extricate himself from the big-serve danger of the Croatian, who won with 23 aces in almost two-and-a-half hours.

Wawrinka, now five times a loser in Basel opening matches, ended disappointingly on a fifth double-fault of an evening to forget for the fourth seed at his home event.

The Swiss stands provisionally eighth in the race to the World Tour Finals, but he now must work a miracle next week at the Paris Masters — the last event of the regular season — to save his qualifying hopes.

The US Open semi-finalist, who put out holder Andy Murray in New York and reached a semi-final last month in Kuala Lumpur, showed only a shadow of his game as he went down to the Frenchman in 71 minutes.

After dropping the first set, the sluggish Swiss was broken to start the second and could never close the gap on his 65th-ranked opponent.

Meanwhile, Uzbek Denis Istomin booked a second-round meeting with former world No. 1 Roger Federer as he beat Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).

Federer, whose poor form this season has yielded just one title and seen him slump to sixth in the world, is battling to reach the eight-man World Tour Finals early next month, with every win here and in Paris crucial to him appearing in a tournament he has won six times.

He began with a victory in front of his home crowd on Monday as he beat Adrian Mannarino.

Federer has never lost to 48th-ranked Istomin in five previous meetings, defeating him most recently at Indian Wells in March, despite suffering from a painful back.

Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori, losing finalist two years ago to Federer, reached the second round by winning 6-2, 6-4 against Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli, a wild-card entry and childhood friend of Federer.

Nishikori next plays Croatian Ivan Dodig, who advanced in just nine minutes as Argentine Carlos Berlocq retired while trailing 2-0.

Marcos Baghdatis also reached the second round, winning his first match since late last month with a defeat of German qualifier Benjamin Becker 7-6 (10/8), 6-1.

The Cypriot is to face the winner from top-seed and title-holder Juan Martin del Potro and Swiss wild card Henri Laaksonen.

VALENCIA OPEN

AFP, VALENCIA, Spain

Colombian Alejandro Falla thrashed sixth seed Gilles Simon for the loss of just one game to progress to the second round of the Valencia Open on Tuesday.

Simon had won both the previous encounters between the pair, but failed to take his chances as he passed up five break points on the Falla serve before slumping to a 6-0, 6-1 defeat in little over an hour.

There were no such upsets for Jerzy Janowicz and Nicolas Almagro, though, as both progressed in straight sets.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Janowicz had to overcome a stiff test from Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, but the Pole’s typically dominant serve was on song as he fired 14 aces on his way to a 7-5, 7-6 (9/7) win over the world No. 66.

Janowicz is to face Joao Sousa in the last 16 after the Portuguese beat Guillermo Garcia Lopez 6-3, 7-5.

No. 3 seed Almagro stayed on course for a potential semi-final meeting with Janowicz or David Ferrer with a 6-2, 6-3 success over compatriot Pablo Andujar.

Almagro was completely dominant in the first set and despite losing his own serve for the only time in the match early in the second, he broke Andujar three times to close out a comfortable victory.

There was more disappointment for Australian Bernard Tomic as his frustrating year continued when he was forced to retire in the third set against Mikhail Youhzny, with the Russian leading 3-6, 6-4, 4-1.

It was not a good day for home favorites Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez, as they fell in straight sets to Michal Przysiezny and Julien Benneteau respectively.

Top seeds Ferrer and Tommy Haas begin their campaigns in the coastal Spanish city yesterday.

Ferrer faced an extremely tough first-round tie with Gael Monfils as he aims for a fourth title in Valencia, whilst Haas was to face compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber as he continues his quest to make it to the ATP World Tour Finals in London next month.