Ferrer handles Isner's tall serve in first round in Cincy

Updated: August 13, 2007, 10:48 PM ET
Associated Press

MASON, Ohio -- The up-and-comer got his comeuppance.

David Ferrer quickly adapted to the novelty of facing a 6-foot-9 player on Monday, beating Georgia star John Isner 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the first round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.

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The 16th-seeded Spaniard handled Isner's out-of-the-sky serve with aplomb, and repeatedly caught the 22-year-old American flat-footed in only his third ATP tournament. Isner led the Bulldogs to the NCAA team championship less than three months ago.

"It's been a big change for me," the four-time collegiate All-American said. "Tonight maybe I got a little mentally tired. I didn't feel I was all there on the court. It's been a big change, a big adjustment."

In other first-round matches involving seeded players, No. 10 Tomas Berdych beat Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4; No. 11 Ivan Ljubicic beat Amer Delic 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3, and 13th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny beat Dominik Hrbaty 6-3, 6-1.

Tim Henman's achy back acted up during his first-round match, won by Juan Ignacio Chela 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Isner was one of the tournament's biggest curiosities, playing his first Masters right out of college. He has already showed he can hold his own on the tour.

Two weeks ago, Isner served an astounding 144 aces while reaching the final in Washington, where he lost to Andy Roddick. Isner won five consecutive third-set tiebreakers to get to that title match.

This time, his serve and his tiebreaker touch were off. He repeatedly hit forehands into the net during the tiebreaker, allowing Ferrer to take control. Isner never got back into the match, in part because he made only 56 percent of his first serves.

"I struggled a little bit with my serve today, and it hurt me," he said.

Ferrer quickly adapted to the steep slope of Isner's serve.

"It's difficult to receive," Ferrer said. "You've got to make the chances in the important moments. In the tiebreaker, I played very focused."

Henman had a painful time on Monday. Chela made the 32-year-old run around and feel his age in the midday sun.

Most of the time, it wasn't a good feeling.

"You feel like you're playing in pain most of the time," Henman said. "Playing on hard courts, it's always going to be pretty tough on the body."

Henman has slipped to No. 92 -- his lowest ranking since 1996 -- in part because his chronic back problems are limiting his practice time and bothering him in matches on hard courts. The Cincinnati Masters is played on the same type of surface as the U.S. Open.

Henman's last five losses have come in full-set matches that test his balky back.

"I'm coming back onto hard courts and struggling with my back again," Henman said. "That's been an issue for quite some time. It's just the constant pounding on the courts."

Henman has finished in the top 50 of the rankings for the last 11 years, sharing with Carlos Moya the longest such active streak on the men's tour. Henman didn't want to talk about his long-term future on Monday, keeping his focus on the upcoming U.S. Open and Davis Cup play.

"I appreciate that I'm nearer the end of my career than the start," he said. "But I've got this -- the tournaments coming up, the U.S. Open and Davis Cup. So, yeah, I'll sort of take it in those sort of segments and see how I feel."

Moya kept up his resurgence by beating David Nalbandian 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2). Moya, who turns 31 on Aug. 27, finished the first-set tiebreaker with one of his 11 aces, and was up 4-2 in the second set when Nalbandian broke his serve to get back into it.

"Still I was feeling I was controlling the match pretty well with my serve," Moya said. "There was no frustration or desperation. I knew I was going to have a chance sooner or later."

He got it in the tiebreaker, serving back-to-back aces to take control 4-1.

"I felt I played pretty well," Nalbandian said. "At the important points, he played great."

The Spaniard was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1999, and has dedicated himself to becoming one of the game's elite again. Since he was No. 47 in February, he has steadily climbed to No. 19 this week.

"I'm very close to the top 10, so why not?" Moya said. "Why not think about being in the top 10? I'm going step by step. My first goal was the top 20, the next step is the top 10. I know it's going to be very difficult.

"I'm very proud of what I'm doing right now. I could have maybe gone home after two very bad years. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to prove to people I could still be competitive in these tournaments."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press