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Serra defeats Verdasco at UCLA event

Special to the Times

While on vacation in Switzerland and France, Florent Serra received a call from the ATP asking him to play in the Masters Series event at Cincinnati only three days before it was set to begin.

After winning his first-round match, Serra met soon-to-be No. 1 Rafael Nadal, losing, 6-0, 6-1.

On Wednesday, the Frenchman again had to play one of the world’s top players in the second round, facing 12th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain in the Countrywide Classic at UCLA. This time he was ready, beating Verdasco, 6-2, 7-6 (4).

“He plays very fast so sometimes there is a chip and sometimes he go very quick long line with his forehand so I had to be very very fast or so not to give him too much points,” Serra said. “He’s not an easy player to play. It was a good match.”

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Serra’s task was made easier by Verdasco’s health and his mistakes. Verdasco played despite injuries to both ankles -- injuries that he said would have kept him out of other tournaments.

Verdasco also struggled with his serve, winning only 28% of points on his second serve and making 10 double faults, including one to end the match.

However, Verdasco was quick to credit Serra rather than blame himself.

“It’s almost if you don’t have your feet good to move you cannot play at this level,” Verdasco said. “He played so good I think when I play short he was with the forehand so aggressive and he made very good winners. He served so good in important moments. I think he made all first serves.”

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Verdasco, seeded second in the tournament, was not the only high-seeded player to lose Wednesday, as fourth-seeded Feliciano Lopez fell to Denis Gremelmayr of Germany, 7-5, 7-5.

Gremelmayr wasn’t even supposed to compete in the tournament. He qualified for the Olympic roster but was replaced after the deadline with Rainer Schuettler after Schuettler reached the semifinals of Wimbledon.

“The Olympics is for me over,” Gremelmayr said. “I’m concentrated on these tournaments. It’s what’s important for me.”

Sixth-seeded Mardy Fish almost joined Verdasco and Lopez. After losing the first set of his match with fellow American Vincent Spadea, he rebounded to win, 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-0.

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Marat Safin, seeded fifth, was the only seeded player to advance without dropping a set, beating Wayne Odesnik, 6-3, 6-2.


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