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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Nalbandian & Blake suffer upsets
David Nalbandian and James Blake
Nalbandian and Blake suffered this year's first shock exits
Argentine David Nalbandian was forced to rue a host of missed chances as the fourth seed crashed out to Spaniard Fernando Verdasco at Wimbledon.

Verdasco, 22, beat the losing 2002 finalist 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (11-9) 6-2 to reach the last 16.

Nalbandian, 24, converted just one of 19 break points and lost two epic tie-breaks before a third-set slump.

Verdasco, seeded 28th, faces Czech Radek Stepanek who beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 5-7 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4 11-9.

After battling back from two sets down, 14th-seed Stepanek outlasted his Spanish opponent in an dramatic 83-minute deciding set to clinch victory on Court Two.

But it was disappointment for Nalbandian, who became the biggest seed to fall in both the men's and women's events so far.

The Argentine only had himself to blame after squandering a series of opportunities to get ahead of Verdasco in the first two sets.

He had 12 break points in the first set alone and came back from break down in the second before falling just short in another tie-break.

Argentina World Cup players
Argentina's defeat by Germany completed a bad day for Nalbandian

By the third set, Nalbandian's spirit appeared to be as shattered as his service game, helping Verdasco seal a memorable victory with a second break of serve.

Afterwards he admitted he had been second best and revealed his match had been the first of the day on Court 13 after he asked organisers for an early start so he could watch Argentina's World Cup quarter-final with Germany.

"I'd never played before on the same day as a World Cup game, but the organisers were OK about it," he said.

"I didn't play good, I couldn't return any serves and I missed a lot of chances. I just lost by myself."

Referee Andrew Jarrett said they could not always meet players' scheduling requests but had managed to on this occasion.

"David made it known he would like to watch the football," he said. "In this instance we were able to accommodate the request."

Verdasco said he had no objection to the move and denied it had affected the result.

"I knew David asked the match to be brought forward. I think this is normal. Playing at 12 is not very early. I don't think he lost heart in the second set," he said.

"I don't think the fact he wanted to watch the football affected his performance. It's more important to win the tennis match than watch football."

Meanwhile Belarussian Max Mirnyi knocked out eighth seed James Blake 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-0 in a thrilling see-saw battle to reach the fourth round for the third time in four years.

Max Mirnyi is red-hot on grass - not a lot of guys are going to beat him

James Blake

After taking the opener, Mirnyi raced to a 2-0 lead in the second but Blake suddenly emerged from his slump to take the next two sets with some great play.

The match seemed like Blake's to win but Mirnyi fought back, using his serve to great advantage to force a decider.

Blake, who was runner-up to Lleyton Hewitt at Queen's Club this year, was spent and did not win a single game as Mirnyi triumphed.

Both players carved out opportunities to break but it was Mirnyi who converted the big points when it mattered.

Blake showed why he is ranked as the world number seven when he found his groove in the second and third sets. The American's game simply flowed with elegant groundstrokes and biting returns.

However, when hid concentration dipped in the fourth, Mirnyi, who has won four Grand Slam doubles titles, took advantage hitting 20 winners.

Mirnyi dug out every point, picking himself up from the grass to break at 3-0 with an impressive forehand, while a shell-shocked Blake faded, failing to reach the fourth round at the sixth time of asking.

Blake afterwards said he was "frustrated" that he had not been able to serve well throughout the match.

"I just stopped making first serves," he said. "Also he was playing unbelievably - Max Mirnyi is red-hot on grass - not a lot of guys are going to beat him."

Elsewhere, Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland pulled a set back against Croatian seventh seed Mario Ancic to level the scores at 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) before failing light stopped play at 2110 BST.

SEE ALSO
Hewitt battles into third round
30 Jun 06 |  Tennis


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