Wild card Julien Benneteau powered his way through to the second round, eliminating No. 10 seed Nicolas Almagro in his bid for the 2011 US Open. Armed with a rocket for a serve, the Frenchman bested the Spanish clay-court specialist in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.
The match was evenly contested from the baseline, but the deciding factor proved to be service games and break-point chances. Benneteau fared better in both categories, capitalizing on a 62 percent first-serve percentage and converting on 6-of-10 break-point chances. Almagro, on the other hand, faltered, as his first serve let him down throughout the match (49 percent) and he failed convert on break point opportunities. The 10th seed went 1-of-13 in those critical moments.
The world No. 81 used a huge serve to win games throughout the first set, converting on his break-point chances and taking advantage of Almagro's unforced errors to race to a 5-2 lead before serving it out.
Almagro continued to struggle finding his range in the second set, falling behind 4-0 thanks to Benneteau's aggressive all-court offense. His clay-court tactics then began working to his advantage and put him back in the set 4-3, but the comeback was short-lived, as the Frenchman used a strong return game and solid serving to take a 2-sets-to-love lead.
By then, Almagro had lost his steam -- and confidence. Benneteau continued to put pressure on his opponent's game, and closed out the third set quickly to win the match in just under two hours, celebrating with an entertaining shimmy dance that could rival Andrea Petkovic.
Benneteau, whose biggest career win came over Roger Federer at the 2009 Paris Masters, is coming off a successful run in Winston-Salem, where he reached the finals as a qualifier, losing to John Isner in the title match. Today's win breaks a seven-match losing streak against top-10 opponents. He'll be aiming to surpass his best US Open result, a third round appearance in 2009.
Almagro, known for his clay-court prowess, has had a noteworthy summer hard-court season, having reached the quarterfinals at Montreal and the round of 16 at Cincinnati. The 26-year-old reached his highest career ranking by breaking the top 10 this year, and he posted his best hard-court result when he made the semifinals at 2010 Vienna and 2011 Auckland.
Benneteau will play the winner of the match between Denis Istomin and American Ryan Sweeting.
- Benneteau committed 24 unforced errors, whereas Almagro committed a crippling 41.
- Almagro served up 12 aces to Benneteau's five.
|Julien Benneteau FRA||6||6||6|
|Nicolas Almagro ESP (10)||2||4||3|