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Blake gets blown away in Rome

JAMES Blake struggled with the windy conditions and lost to Romanian qualifier Victor Crivoi 7-5, 6-3 on Monday in the first round of the Rome Masters.

Blake lost the opening five games against the 112th-ranked Crivoi, rallied to make it 5-5 - saving three set points along the way - then was broken at love to end the first set.

"He might have gotten a little nervous trying to close out the first set, and I didn't put any pressure on him," Blake said. "I wasn't attacking, and when I tried to attack I was missing. Just a really bad day."

With intermittent rain falling in the second set and the wind swirling on the makeshift secondary stadium court at the Foro Italico, Blake wasted a 2-0 lead and handed Crivoi his first tour victory this year.

"He did a better job of handling the conditions. I should have put more balls on the court," Blake said. "It makes when you're playing bad even less fun when you're out there and the conditions are like that. You got clay in your eyes and you can't control the ball because of the wind. And when it starts to drizzle, it makes it not so much fun."

Last year's runner-up Stanislas Wawrinka got off to a solid start, beating Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 6-3, 6-4. The 10th-seeded Swiss player, who lost to Novak Djokovic in last year's final, upset Roger Federer at the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month.

"I'm happy with my game," Wawrinka said. "It's difficult to play well and keep focused in every game. I'm happy to win it in two sets."

Also advancing was 15th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, who defeated Italian wild card Flavio Cipolla 6-2, 6-2.

Meanwhile, on the women's tour, fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus defeated Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-4 in the Porsche Grand Prix on Monday in Stuttgart, Germany.

It was the first match to be played on indoor clay on the WTA tour.


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