ATP Tour

Isner advances in Monte Carlo

2015-04-13 19:34
John Isner (AFP)

Monte Carlo - John Isner has defeated fellow American Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-4 to win his first career match at the Monte Carlo Masters on Monday as Latvian 13th seed Ernests Gulbis fell 6-1, 6-0.

Isner, seeded 15, has only ventured onto European clay this early in a spring once before in a career which began eight years ago.

But a defeat in the 2013 first round did little to boost confidence for the self-confessed USA homebody who feels out of his depth culturally in Europe and much prefers to stay on his side of the Atlantic whenever possible.

Isner reached the Miami semi-finals a fortnight ago, where he lost to Novak Djokovic. He then crashed out as top seed last week in Houston.

"I like this court even if I've not played much on it," said the winner. "I'm just happy to be off to a good start in 2015.

"I'm not the best mover on the clay, so I think serve-and-volley can be a good tactic when an opponent is far back on the baseline. I hope to keep going here."

Isner finished his afternoon with back-to-back aces - his 12th and 13th - as he advanced.

Gulbis refused to bow to stress as the laid-back Latvian exited timidly, a 6-1, 6-0 first-round victim of Austria's Andreas Haider-Maurer.

The admittedly slumping world number 17 suffered his eighth loss from nine matches played this season, which began with a shoulder injury carried over from 2014 which disrupted his 2015 preparation.

Nevertheless, the 26-year-old who shocked the sport with a Roland Garros semi-final last spring, is far from panic stations.

With supreme logic, the loveable outsider quickly analysed the situation: "Have I ever won more than two rounds in this tournament? No. Is it something new? No.

"I'm still ranked in the top 20 in the world. I have a lot of points to defend, but no problem. Listen, I won two tournaments in the south of France (in 2014), Marseille and Nice. I always play well in the south of France. It's nothing.

"I focus on every match, every place. Maybe it doesn't look like it, but I'm trying to give my best on every point.

"Unfortunately today there were different reasons why I played like this. But, you know, no excuses. The guy won and that's it. I don't see the big problem. I'm playing well in practice."

Gulbis lasted for less than an hour against Heider-Maurer, who plays Australian Bernard Tomic in the second round at one of the most picturesque venues in tennis.

The Latvian, son of one of his Baltic country's major industrialists, finished last season in the ATP top 20 for the first time in his career.

He played quarter-finals 11 times and won a career-high 41 matches, adding two more titles to comprise a total of six and a flawless 6-0 record in title matches.

But Gulbis remains calm as he works through his current situation.

"It's a lack of preparation, it's always tough for me to change from hard court to clay. Especially if I had a shitty season on hard court, to come play on clay, it's even tougher.

"I need couple weeks, I need this week, I need matches. I need to go to Barcelona next week. I need to practise."

Elsewhere in the first round, Spanish 12th seed Roberto Bautista Agut began with a 6-0, 6-2 hammering of German Benjamin Becker while 2013 semi-finalist Fabio Fognini of Italy defeated Poland's Jerzy Janowicz 6-3, 6-1.

Alexandr Dolgopolov stopped Croatian teenager Borna Coric 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 in two and a quarter-hours; Joao Sousa of Portugal beat Edouardo Roger-Vasselin of France 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 as the tournament mourned the death Sunday after illness of former tournament director Patrice Dominguez.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  monte carlo masters  |  john isner  |  tennis

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