India`s Somdev Devvarman dethrones defending champ

Washington: Indian qualifier Somdev Devvarman eliminated defending champion Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) on Tuesday at the USD 1.76 million ATP and WTA Washington Open.

World number 129 Devvarman, a two-time US college champion ranked 104 spots below Ukranian ninth seed Dolgopolov, advanced to the round of 16, where he could face US eighth seed John Isner on Thursday.

"I`m very happy. That guy is a tough player, no question," Devvarman said. "I played really well. in the beginning. he gave me a couple errors to break him.

"He fought back in the second set. I was serving well. It kept me in the match. I gave myself looks on his serve. It was just confidence."

Devvarman, who lives and trains in nearby Charlottesville, has adjusted to the heat, often a stumbling block for foes in this early US Open hardcourt tuneup.

"It`s such an advantage to be here to prepare for one of my favourite tournaments," he said.

Devvarman, who went to India after Wimbledon to work with a Chennai-based charity called "Life is a Ball," feels on top of his game.

"I`m pretty sharp," he said. "Physically for sure."

Australia`s Lleyton Hewitt and American Ryan Harrison were playing a later first-round match for the chance to face Argentine top seed Juan Martin Del Potro, a two-time Washington winner and the 2009 US Open champion.

Japanese second seed Kei Nishikori, a career-best 11th in the rankings, will open with a second-round match Wednesday against US wildcard Jack Sock, who beat Dutchman Igor Sijsling 6-4, 6-2.

"I`m going to just go out and play my game," Sock said. "If I`m playing well, I think I have a shot at a lot of guys."

Nishikori, who has never played or practiced with Sock, is rated a title threat by Del Potro.

"He is another big favorite to win the tournament," Del Potro said of Nishikori after a practice session with him. "He is playing really well."

Women`s top seed Angelique Kerber of Germany connected on only 39 percent of her first serves but still dominated US qualifier Irina Falconi 6-2, 6-3 to book a second-round date with American Melanie Oudin.

"It was difficult after such a long time without matches," said Kerber, who included a five-day Majorca vacation in her post-Wimbledon break. "I can improve more. My serve was not so good. I went out for 20 minutes to hit a little bit more after the match. I think it was a good idea."

Britain`s Heather Watson rallied past US qualifier Alexandra Mueller 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-3 and will play for a quarter-final berth against French fourth seed Alize Cornet, who ousted Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-1, 6-3.

"It was a tough match," Watson said. "I`m just glad I`m alive for another day."

Watson struggled with mononucleosis in April but said she felt healthy for the match.

"I`m just building my game back after being ill for so long," Watson said. "I`m feeling good now. I was saying while training before this tournament this is the first time this year that I felt good."


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