Thursday, February 23, 2012

Upsets clear path for SAP Open champ in Memphis

   Not that Milos Raonic needed any help, but the rising star's road to his second straight Memphis final got a lot easier Wednesday.
   The other three seeds in Raonic's half of the draw lost in the first round of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships.
   Thirty-one-year-old Belgian veterans accounted for two of the upsets. Xavier Malisse knocked off No. 2 seed and defending champion Andy Roddick, slowed by injuries this year, 7-6 (8), 7-5, and Olivier Rochus edged No. 5 Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5).
   Roddick, a three-time Memphis champion, fell to Malisse for the first time in 10 matches and suffered his earliest loss in 12 appearances in the tournament.
   Also, Germany's Philipp Petzschner toppled France's Julien Benneteau, the sixth seed and a semifinalist in last week's SAP Open in San Jose, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6).
   Raonic, the fourth seed coming off his second straight SAP Open title, downed Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-2, 7-6 (6). Raonic, 6-foot-5 with a booming serve, improved to 12-1 this year and 12-2 in career tiebreakers in Memphis and San Jose.   
   In the top half of the draw, Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer nipped last week's SAP Open runner-up, Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   Meanwhile, 40-year-old doubles specialist Mark Knowles, a longtime Sacramento Capitals star in World TeamTennis who won the SAP Open title with Malisse, lost in the opening round with 6-8 Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
   The first-time pair fell to top seeds and defending champions Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada 7-5, 6-2. Knowles has won four Memphis doubles crowns, the first two with Nestor.
   Davis Cup teammates John Isner and Sam Querrey, the 2010 Memphis doubles champions, advanced to the semifinals with a 2-6, 6-3, 15-13 tiebreak victory over Bogomolov and Lukasz Kubot of Poland. Querrey, 24, was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Los Angeles area.  
   Kops-Jones loses -- Raquel Kops-Jones, a former NCAA doubles champion from Cal, and Abigail Spears of San Diego lost to fourth-seeded Nuria Llagostera Vives of Spain and Anastasia Rodionova, an ex-Capital from Australia, 6-3, 2-6, 12-10 tiebreak in the quarterfinals of the $2 million Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
  Kops-Jones and Spears had edged Llagostera Vives and Rodionova 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 tiebreak last week in the semifinals at Doha, Qatar.

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