- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thomas Johansson was nervous, aware he was growing tired and that his inconsistent play nearly was costing him the match.

After almost blowing a lead in the first set, Johansson had lost six of seven points during a stretch of the third set and was close to blowing another game.

But the Swedish native won four straight points on his serve and ended the match a game later with a backhand down the line, defeating Colombian Santiago Giraldo 7-6 (7), 6-7 (5), 6-4 to set up a match against defending champion Arnaud Clement.

“I’ve been practicing hard now for the last week,” Johansson said. “Everything’s been feeling great. Sometimes it’s tough to produce the same as in practice. Hopefully next match, I can play more relaxed.”

The match resumed yesterday after play was postponed because of rain Sunday, and Johansson felt he could put it away early. Instead, it lasted two hours, 40 minutes and cost him a lot of energy after squandering several leads.

Up 5-2 in the first-set, he needed a tiebreaker to win. After Giraldo took the second set, Johansson was in position with a 4-1 lead in the third set, then started losing point after point until it was tied 4-4.

He then found his serve just when he needed it.

“I was serving really, really well, but I was not happy with the way I served the whole way in the match,” said Johansson, who had 14 saves but felt his returns and serves suffered because of fatigue. “I was serving well for a couple games, but it was very up and down.”

Virginia star advances

Somdev Devvarman is trying to maximize his returns, part of a plan to make the 2007 NCAA singles champion more offensive-minded.

In two matches, it has worked.

Devvarman, a Virginia graduate, defeated Brazilian Andre Sa in a qualifying round in two sets, 6-2, 6-1, advancing to play D.C. native Paul Goldstein this afternoon.

“I wanted to make a lot of returns because I didn’t want to give up free points,” Devvarman said. “I tried not to make too many errors and make him work a little bit more. He was having an off day, to be fair to him. I took advantage of it.”

It didn’t seem Devvarman even needed to be that aggressive. He won 74 percent of his service points and converted on 71 percent of his first returns. But the approach didn’t hurt. After failing to return a volley from Devvarman in the first game of the second set, Sa slammed his racket in frustration.

Devvarman competed before a small audience, including few select friends and Virginia assistant coach Tony Bresky. He plans for a bigger crowd if he keeps advancing, but he will just enjoy the opportunity for now.

“I’m so fortunate to be put in the spot I am,” Devvarman said. “Not everybody has the chance to go out there and get a wild-card and actually do well. Hopefully a few more friends will come. It”ll be a cool experience playing in front of all your friends.”

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