Reigning NCAA champ falls in 1st round of SAP Open
SAN JOSE, Calif.—Reigning NCAA champion Steve Johnson lost his first-round match at the SAP Open on Tuesday to Steve Darcis of Belgium, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), and is still seeking his first tour win.
Johnson, who also lost his three previous ATP Tour matches, battled hard against the more experienced Darcis but fell just short in both tiebreakers. Darcis, 27, is ranked 72nd in the world and has two career titles.
Johnson, 22, won the NCAA title last year at Southern California and is looking to lead the Trojans to their fourth straight team title in his senior season. He has won 43 straight college matches.
The first full day of action featured a heavy dose of Americans with eight scheduled to play their first matches of the tournament. Only one of the five Americans who played in the afternoon session advanced to the second round as Denis Kudla beat countryman Jack Sock in a matchup of 19-year-old up-and-comers.
Sock beat Kudla in the U.S. Open junior final in three sets in 2010 and twice on clay in Futures events the past two years, but fell 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 in this match.
Sock, who teamed with John McEnroe to win a doubles exhibition on Monday night, had a short stay in the singles draw. He had his serve broken in the opening game of the match for the only break in the first set. Neither player lost serve in the second set before Sock rallied from 5-2 down in the tiebreaker to force a third set.
Sock got up an early break in the third set before losing four straight games, committing two double faults in the crucial sixth game that included seven deuces. Sock lost that game with a double fault to fall behind 4-2 and failed to convert a break opportunity in the seventh game.
In the first match of the day, American Dennis Lajola lost his ATP Tour debut to fellow qualifier Dimitar Kutrovsky of Bulgaria, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 7-6 (3). Kutrovsky next plays top-seeded Gael Monfils in the second round on Thursday.
Tim Smyczek, who made it to the quarterfinals here last year, was knocked out in the first round by Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
In the night matches, American Robby Ginepri took on Xavier Malisse in his first ATP Tour match of the year and seventh-seeded Donald Young was set to face fellow American Michael Russell in the late match.