Rome: Argentine claycourt specialist Gaston Gaudio stunned ex-champion Gustavo Kuerten 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in the first round of the Rome Masters on Monday.
Kuerten, who won in Rome in 1999 and finished runner-up the following two years, had beaten the Argentine in two of their previous three meetings, though Gaudio won their only meeting on clay — at Mallorca last year — on his way to winning the meet.
Gaudio took advantage of some ragged early hitting by the Brazilian, breaking to go 4-2 ahead before holding on to take the first set. The players exchanged service breaks at the start of the second set, but Kuerten seized the advantage in the sixth game with Gaudio serving and the score at 30-40 when a short ball by Kuerten lured the Argentine to the net.
Kuerten lobbed Gaudio and then put away his weak backhand reply to go a break up at 4-2 before going on to take the set.
Gaudio survived two break points in the sixth game of the decider, but with the score at 4-4 Kuerten committed three unforced errors to lose his serve and hand his opponent a chance to serve for the match.
Second seed Juan Carlos Ferrero edged into the second round with a tense 7-6, 6-4 win over Australia’s Mark Philippoussis.
The big-serving Philippoussis, who feels more at home on the grass courts of Wimbledon and Queen’s, had to qualify for the main draw and few expected him to offer much resistance to his Spanish opponent.
The first set, however, turned into a tight contest but Ferrero snatched it in the tiebreak, 7-3.
He will meet fellow Spaniard and 1997 winner Alex Corretja, who earlier beat Albert Portas 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Earlier, fifth seed Roger Federer cruised into the second round with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Twenty-one-year-old Federer, who has won three tournaments so far this year including the BMW Open in Munich last week, took advantage of four unforced errors by his opponent to break serve in the opening game of the match. He broke again in the ninth game to take the first set 6-3.
In a topsy-turvy second set, serve was broken three times in the first eight games to give the Frenchman a 5-3 lead.
But as he served for the set at 5-4, Mathieu’s consistency deserted him again as he hoisted groundstrokes long and netted volleys to allow the Swiss player to reel off three games in a row to go 6-5 up. (Reuters)