SAN JOSE (AP) — First Sam Querrey lost his serving groove. Then he lost the match.
Lukas Lacko earned his first win in 12 tries against a player ranked in the top 20, knocking off the third-seeded Querrey 7-6 (6), 6-3 in the first round of the SAP Open on Tuesday night.
Querrey won three-quarters of his points on serve in the opening set, with 10 aces. But that powerful serve left him after the first set tiebreaker and he went on to lose for the ninth time in his past 10 matches.
“The first set was one of the best sets of serving in my life, Querrey said. “The second set I was not using my legs as much and started losing confidence in it and then it went away.”
The loss by the 17th-ranked Querrey was one of three by seeded players in the first round on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, big-serving Milos Raonic upset fourth-seeded Xavier Malisse 6-3, 6-4, and sixth-seeded Benjamin Becker lost to Richard Berankis 6-3, 7-6 (2).
In the final match of the night, Juan Martin del Potro beat Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-3, 6-2, in his first match in the United States since beating Roger Federer to win the 2009 U.S. Open. Del Potro played only six matches last year because of a right wrist injury, dropping to 484th in the latest rankings. He has made it to the second round in all three tournament he has played this year.
Querrey has lost all three matches he has played this year, dropping his first match of the year in Sydney to Alexandr Dolgopolov and falling in the first round of the Australian Open to Lukasz Kubot. Querrey has only won once since reaching the fourth round at the U.S. Open, where he lost a five-setter to Stanislas Wawrinka.
“I just have to stick with it and a win will come and then hopefully more,” he said.
Querrey quickly left the court as soon as the match ended and went right out of the arena without changing, declining to do a postmatch interview despite a request from the tournament organizers. He later returned to the interview room more than an hour after the match ended, saying he wanted to eat dinner before his news conference.
This marked the second straight year Querrey has lost his first three matches. He ended that drought last year by making a run to the semifinals in San Jose before losing a third-set tiebreaker to Andy Roddick and winning the following week in Memphis for his first of four tournament wins.
He was unable to make a similar run in San Jose this year as he struggled all match with his groundstrokes and was unable to win it with his powerful serve.
That serve kept Querrey in the match early, as he went 11 straight points on his serve with Lacko unable to get a single return in play. But Lacko was able to take the opening set to a tiebreaker and got an early advantage on a double fault by Querrey. Lacko squandered two set points before earning a third with a forehand winner down the line. He won the set when Querrey hit a forehand into the net.
Querrey lost his first service game of the second set before breaking right back. Lacko then broke serve again to take a 4-2 lead as the dominant serve that kept Querrey in the match early disappeared. He got only 31 percent of his first serves in during the second set and had only two aces after recording 10 in the opening set.
“In the second set he started to have problems with his first serve,” Lacko said. “He started to miss a lot and his second serve is not that good. It’s easy to get into the rally and I am better in the rallies.”
Lacko held his final two games to win his first match in San Jose and get his first top 20 win ever.
“It’s a good feeling because it proves to me that I’m able to beat guys like this,” Lacko said. “I played a couple of matches this year, last year against guys like Sam is, top 20, top 10 players. I played good matches. I got chances but I never finished the match. I lost too many close matches.”
The losses by Malisse and Becker left no seeded players remaining in that quarter of the draw. That could open up a chance for James Blake, who is playing in his first tournament in four months after being hampered by knee and shoulder injuries. Blake will take on Raonic in the second round Wednesday, while Donald Young faces Richard Berankis.
The 20-year-old Raonic used his serve to make it all the way to the round of 16 at the Australian Open as a qualifier before losing to David Ferrer. He served 20 aces in his first match in San Jose to set up his showdown with Blake.
In other first-round matches, eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori beat Jan Hajek 6-1, 7-6 (6), and Brian Dabul beat Alejandro Falla 6-4, 6-3.
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