By Fernie Ruano Jr.
American women made a terrific start to the 2014 Sony Open Tennis tournament with a slew of winners in the first round Wednesday, including Christina McHale, Lauren Davis, Vania King and Coco Vandeweghe.
The 21-year-old McHale defeated Jie Zheng of China, 6-4,6-2, while King served up a double bagel (6-0, 6-0) on Estrella Cabeza Candela from Spain, and Davis ran a straight set victory over Shuai Zhang of China, 6-2, 6-3. McHale will play 24th-seeded Kaia Kanepi in the second round, while King faces off against Lucie Safarova, and Davis takes on 12-seed Ana Ivanovic.
Former champion Nikolay Davydenko made a quick exit from the 2014 Sony Open Tennis tournament as he lost to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, 6-3, 7-5, in the first match of the first round on Stadium Court Wednesday at the Tennis Center of Crandon Park. The World No. 80 Mannarino advances to the second round in Key Biscayne and will face fellow Frenchman and No.11 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round
In the next match on Stadium Court, another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, outlasted Argentina’s Juan Monaco 7-5, 3-6. 7-6 (5) in a three-hour power shot fest, advancing to a second-round meeting against No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic.
Other first round action included Japan’s 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krum losing to Donna Vekic from Croatia 7-6 (2), 6-2; France’s Julien Benneteau coming back from a set down to defeat Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2; and 18-year-old American Victoria Duval losing her first-round match to Kiki Bertens from the Netherlands, 7-6 (5), 6-1.
Displaying a solid baseline game and serve, including winning 70 percent of his first serves in the first set, Mannarino, a qualifier, needed just 38 minutes to win the first set on his way to notching career-victory No.1 in Key Biscayne and sending Davydenko, the 2008 former Sony Open champ, home early.
“I didn’t feel like I played a great match, but what I was, was pretty consistent,” said the Mannarino. “I was just trying to hold my serve and make my move. My serve helped me out a little bit today.”
His court coverage and footwork proved to be too much for the experienced Davydenko. Ahead a set and 3-2, Mannarino seemingly took control of the match with four straight points to win the sixth game and take a two-game lead. But Davydenko rallied to win three of four points to break Mannarino at 5-5, including a backhand winner that stayed just inside the line to win the game.
Davydenko struggled with 14 unforced errors in the first set and could not hold serve after taking a 30-15 lead as Mannarino took the lead back with three straight points, including a Davydenko forehand that went long to give Mannarino a 6-5 advantage.
“I wasn’t thinking it was an important time in the match,” said Mannarino. “I was just concentrating on playing my game. At no point did I feel I played great, but like I said, I think I was pretty consistent the whole match.”
Serving for the match a second time, Mannarino didn’t waste much time after another Davydenko unforced error got him back to 30-30. After trading points, Mannarino put Davydenko away with a volley the former World No. 3 could not quite get to.
“I served well, but that was just a match like any other for me,” said Mannarino. "I’m just trying to play and put together my best tennis right now. I’m happy I’m moving on.”
Chardy came back from an early break to win the first set on his way to the three-set victory over Monaco.
“I know (Monaco’s) a good player, so I was trying to stay with my game,” said Chardy, a Top 100-player 5 of the past 6 seasons. “I served well and felt I was very strong (throughout the entire match).”
In a tense third set with a vociferous crowd cheering each point, Chardy launched a 121 mile-an-hour service winner to hold serve, taking a 4-3 lead. But Monaco would not go quietly, rallying with four straight winners to force deuce before taking the 11th game of the third set to get even at 5-5.
“I’m not happy that I couldn’t pull it out,” said Monaco. “But those things happen.”
The Argentine took advantage of a Chardy unforced error to force a tiebreaker, but he could not overcome his powerful opponent. Monaco left a two-handed backhand short of the net before Chardy closed out the match with an overhand winner.