Blake out of Sony Ericsson Open

Eighth-seeded James Blake was the first big name to fall in the Sony Ericsson Open when he was eliminated by Florent Serra of France in the second round.

updated: March 27, 2007 10:03 IST
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Eighth-seeded James Blake was the first big name to fall in the Sony Ericsson Open when he was eliminated by Florent Serra of France in the second round on Friday.

Blake hit another low in his two-month slump when he blew a forehand put away on the final shot of the tiebreaker, and sailed an easy backhand long with a chance to break late in the third set.

"I can't lose those kind of points and expect to win matches," said Blake, beaten in six of his past nine matches.Serra avenged a straight-sets loss to the American two weeks ago at Indian Wells in the same stage.

Number 2 Rafael Nadal, who won his first title since June at Indian Wells on Sunday, overcame two set points to beat Ricardo Mello of Brazil 7-6 (7), 6-2, and number 3 Andy Roddick, the 2004 champion, improved to 19-4 this year by beating Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina 6-3, 6-2.

In the women's draw, Belgian stars Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, on course to meet in the semifinals, reached the third round.

Serra broke thrice

Despite 13 aces by Blake, Serra broke him three times, including in the decisive fourth game of the final set.

Blake's bid to shake his slump must wait until April 6-8, when the U.S. Davis Cup team plays Spain.

He acknowledged his confidence needs a boost."Winning is the best answer," he said. "You've just got to get out there and win. Sometimes the only other thing that can help is trying to trick yourself.
Hopefully I can count on being a dumb jock and I can fool myself into thinking that I can play confidently next time.

I think I can do that."Serra's second win in three matches against Blake allowed him to pass the second round in a tournament for the first time this year.Number 17 Marcos Baghdatis lost to 18-year-old Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-2, 5-7, 6-0.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin, seeded 25th, was beaten by Spanish qualifier Feliciano Lopez.

Fifth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile beat former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson 7-5, 6-3, and number 13 David Ferrer, a semifinalist here the past two years, won his opener against Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-2, 6-2.Among the seeded players waiting until Saturday for their opening match is top-ranked Roger Federer.

He faces 19-year-old Sam Querrey, a 1.98-meter (6-foot-6) American who has climbed to 69th from 127th since the start of the year.

"Federer is not that good," Querrey said with a laugh. "It would be cool to get my first top-10 win off him. If I see him in the locker room or in practice, I'll give him a little stare or something, intimidate him.

"Top-ranked Henin beat American Vania King 6-4, 6-1 and fourth-seeded Clijsters rallied past Japan's Akiko Morigami 4-6, 6-0, 6-0.Henin, who is seeded number 2 but overtook Maria Sharapova this week atop the rankings, survived a slow start against King.

The 18-year-old teenager took a 3-1 lead in the first set, and serving at 4-all, she had five game points but lost them all. Henin saved one with a running scoop lob over King to stay in the rally and eventually won the point.

After breaking for a 5-4 lead, Henin served out the set and took charge from there. The win represents an improvement over a year ago, when Henin lost her opening match to Meghann Shaughnessy.

Henin to advance

Henin has yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals at Key Biscayne."I've never played very well here in the past," she said.

"It's hard to explain. I hope I can have a better tournament this year."Number 16 Daniela Hantuchova, the Indian Wells champion last week, beat 14-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal 7-5, 6-0."She has nothing to lose," Hantuchova said.

"If I lose, it's the biggest disaster in the world. It wasn't easy to handle that, but I'm really glad how I handled it mentally."Peng Shuai, who recently hired former French Open champion Michael Chang as her coach, lost to number 7 Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-4.

Other seeded winners included No. 6 Nadia Petrova, number 9 Anna Chakvetadze, number 10 Dinara Safina all from Russia and number 15 Li Na of China.