Houston:Guillermo Canas of Argentina completed a sweep of the top two seeds in the US Men's Clay Court Championships with a 6-4 6-4 victory over top-seeded James Blake.
Earlier yesterday, Germany's Bjorn Phau, ranked 77th, beat second-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. It marked the first time since 2000 that the top two seeds in the Clay Court Championships failed to advance past the first round.
Canas, who is ranked 113th in the world and lost six straight first-round matches this year, used his clay-court experience to pull ahead of Blake in the first set. The South American, who has 119 wins against 80 losses in clay-court matches, broke Blake in the fifth and seventh games of the first set.
Canas led 5-4 in the 10th game of the final set when Blake made a determined bid, forcing Canas to four break points before Canas held and won at the first match point on a forehand passing shot.
"It's hard to gain confidence when you lose in the first round," Canas said. "This year has been a tough start. I haven't played well for the past two months. Now, for me, I hope to continue on with the tournament."
Blake dropped to 39-41 in career clay-court matches.
"At times I beat myself out there. I made too many errors," Blake said. "He kind of forces you into that the way he plays defense. It's no excuse for some errors, especially the ones I made at key times. If you expect to win matches you have to put that around big points."
Fish, ranked 28th, was the crowd favorite at the start of the match but by the third set, Phau's determined play started drawing scattered cheers. Phau broke Fish in the third game of the decisive set and served a love game in the fourth game.
Phau closed out the victory with another break in the eighth game with a series of crowd-pleasing shots.
Phau took Fish to the first match point with a sliding backhand that he shot down the line past the flat-footed Fish.
Fish brought it back to deuce but then Phau ended it with two blazing backhand winners.
"At the beginning, I didn't feel as well but I started to feel better by the third set," Phau said. "I tried to get into a rhythm and I think I got it."
Fish had Phau at break point in the seventh game of the third set before the German held with an ace at game-point.
The match started with service breaks in the first two games. Fish lost his serve again in the eighth game of the opening set and Phau won it at the first set point in the ninth game on Fish's error.
Fish closed the second set in the 12th game with a break, winning it on Phau's forehand error.
Tommy Haas beat fellow Germany Denis Gremelmayr 6-3, 6-3.
Lleyton Hewitt of Australia needed only 62 minutes to beat Diego Junqueira of Argentina 6-0, 6-2.
"I didn't know what to expect," Hewitt said. "It's my first clay court tournament since last year. I wasn't brought up on clay so it's a matter of getting your footwork down and getting the nerves out of the way."
Although Hewitt has won just once on clay, he has a career record of 80-37 on the surface.
"I must be doing something right," he said.