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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fernando Verdasco avoided a second successive first-round grand slam exit at the hands of Italian Fabio Fognini with a 1-6 7-5 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory at the U.S. Open on Tuesday.
Fognini had accounted for the Spaniard's coveted scalp in their opening-round encounter at Wimbledon in June and, when he raced into an early lead, history looked set to repeat itself.
But Verdasco, who had never previously lost in the first round at Flushing Meadows, refused to be fazed by the setback.
"I wasn't worried about what happened at Wimbledon - it wasn't on my mind," Verdasco told Reuters after his win. "All I was thinking about was how I was going to beat him.
The 26-year-old Spaniard dominated the second set, which could well have gone to a tiebreak had Fognini not fluffed a break-point opportunity on Verdasco's final service game.
In a match that never really ignited, the fourth set proved another one-sided affair during which Fognini got treatment from a trainer and failed to challenge his opponent's serve despite Verdasco landing a woeful 36 percent of first serves.
Undeterred, Fognini broke back at the start of the fourth set to take the match into a deciding set, which essentially turned in the fifth game when a fist-pumping Verdasco got the match-winning break.
The number eight now faces French qualifier Adrian Mannarino in the next round as he bids to become the first left-hander since John McEnroe to win the U.S. Open title.
Verdasco said he hoped to continue Spain's year of sporting success and emulate the sporting achievements of his countrymen at the soccer World Cup and three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
"I get caught up in what Spanish people do in sport and, like the World Cup team and Contador in the Tour de France, I want to give as many victories to the Spanish people as possible," he said.
Editing by Frank Pingue