Blake upset by Romanian qualifier at Rome Masters

James Blake struggled with the windy conditions and lost to Romanian qualifier Victor Crivoi 7-5, 6-3 on Monday in the first round of the Rome Masters.

updated: April 28, 2009 06:39 IST
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James Blake struggled with the windy conditions and lost to Romanian qualifier Victor Crivoi 7-5, 6-3 on Monday in the first round of the Rome Masters.

Blake lost the opening five games against the 112th-ranked Crivoi, rallied to make it 5-5 _ saving three set points along the way _ then was broken at love to end the first set.

"He might have gotten a little nervous trying to close out the first set, and I didn't put any pressure on him," Blake said. "I wasn't attacking, and when I tried to attack I was missing. Just a really bad day."

With intermittent rain falling in the second set and the wind swirling on the makeshift secondary stadium court at the Foro Italico, Blake wasted a 2-0 lead and handed Crivoi his first tour victory this year.

"He did a better job of handling the conditions. I should have put more balls on the court," Blake said. "It makes when you're playing bad even less fun when you're out there and the conditions are like that. You got clay in your eyes and you can't control the ball because of the wind. And when it starts to drizzle, it makes it not so much fun."

Last year's runner-up Stanislas Wawrinka got off to a solid start, beating Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 6-3, 6-4. The 10th-seeded Swiss player, who lost to Novak Djokovic in last year's final, upset Roger Federer at the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month.

"I'm happy with my game," Wawrinka said. "It's difficult to play well and keep focused in every game. I'm happy to win it in two sets."

Also advancing was 15th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, who defeated Italian wild card Flavio Cipolla 6-2, 6-2.

The 1.98-meter (6-foot-6) Cilic had five aces and 25 winners to Cipolla's eight.

The youngest player in the draw at 20 years, 7 months, Cilic has won titles in Chennai, India, and his hometown of Zagreb this year. He also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open for the second straight year.

An even taller Croatian, 2.08-meter (6-foot-10) Ivo Karlovic, rallied to beat Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to set up a meeting with Federer.

Albert Montanes of Spain defeated Italian wild card Potito Starace 7-6 (8), 6-4 and will next face Djokovic, while Argentine qualifier Juan Monaco beat the oldest player in the draw, 31-year-old Nicolas Kiefer, 6-2, 6-3, to set up a meeting with Andy Murray.

Also, Christophe Rochus of Belgium beat Juan Ignacio Chela 6-1, 6-2, and Viktor Troicki defeated Victor Hanescu 6-3, 6-3 to advance into a matchup with fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro.

Two matches were suspended due to the rain and will resume Tuesday.

Mikhail Youzhny of Russia leads Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain 7-5, 5-4; and Mardy Fish of the United States and Igor Andreev were at 3-3 in the first set.

A match featuring two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin against 13th-seeded Tommy Robredo was postponed along with three other matches.

The top eight seeded players have first-round byes at the clay-court warmup for the French Open, which starts May 25.

With sixth-ranked Andy Roddick taking a break from the tour following his wedding, the 16th-ranked Blake was the top American in the draw. Blake has now lost both of his matches on clay this year, falling to Guillermo Canas in Houston at the beginning of the month.

"Hasn't been my best tennis lately," said Blake, whose career nearly ended in Rome with a freak accident in 2004 when he fractured vertebrae in his neck after colliding into the net post during a practice session.

"I'd love to snap my fingers and magically turn it around and be playing better, but I don't have those powers. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know how I'm going turn it around."