NEW YORK (Reuters) - Czech Tomas Berdych became the first big casualty of the U.S. Open after being outclassed 7-6 6-4 6-4 by France’s Michael Llodra on Wednesday.
Playing on his favorite surface, the Wimbledon finalist had been expected to dominate the match against Llodra, who is better known as a doubles specialist.
But Llodra sprung a surprise by winning the tiebreak and increasingly pegged back Berdych with serve-and-volley tactics.
“I knew before the match that it was going to be difficult because Berdych has a big serve and a big, flat forehand,” said Llodra. “I knew that if I wanted to beat him I had to put a lot of pressure on him. I had to make perfect shots and it proved a good combination.”
There was a glimmer of hope for Berdych, who had also reached the last four of the French Open earlier this year, when Llodra landed awkwardly during the fourth game of the second set.
The 30-year-old had to call a medical timeout and grimaced as he was treated by the trainer. But when play resumed, he held serve, broke Berdych the next game and rounded off the set with ease.
A change of shirt for the third set failed to bring a change of fortunes for Berdych, who was once again broken.
Llodra fluffed his opportunity to serve out for the match, allowing nerves to get the better of him as he lost the game to love but broke the next game for a spot in the second round.
He will now play Romania’s Victor Hanescu, who was also a straight-sets winner against Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq.
Editing by Frank Pingue