The onslaught of aces was supposed to have come the day before against a huge Croatian, not from a Belgian baseliner on Wednesday night.
Tommy Haas of Germany got past the first hurdle (Ivo Karlovic) with relative ease, but didn't have enough survival skills to fend off Xavier Malisse of Belgium. Malisse hit 18 aces and double faulted only twice in defeating the defending champion Haas, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the second round of the Mercedes-Benz Cup at UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center.
Haas was seeded fourth, continuing the tournament's three-day pattern. Two rounds have not quite been completed and there are only two seeded players remaining: No. 1 Andre Agassi and No. 2 Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia. Hrbaty won his second-round match earlier on Wednesday, and Agassi will play Kevin Kim today in the second round.
For the first half an hour, it looked as though Haas would have little trouble joining Hrbaty in the quarterfinals.
"After the first set, I thought I was going to be in the locker room too," Malisse said in his on-court interview.
Especially since Malisse had not been able to win consecutive matches on the tour since Memphis during the indoor season in the winter and had only two wins in 10 previous matches against Haas. Haas had won their last four meetings, all in straight sets.
But Malisse hung in there and the match turned when he broke Haas early in the second. The decisive service break in the third set came at 2-2. Malisse broke Haas at 30, hitting a forehand winner down the line. Haas had the chance to get the service break back, trailing 4-3, but Malisse fought off one break point, serving his way out of trouble.
Haas was asked if his recent idleness -- he suffered an ankle injury by stepping on a ball at Wimbledon during the warmup -- factored into the loss.
"I wouldn't say that. I felt physically pretty good, to be honest," Haas said. "I played a really good first set, flawless tennis on my side."
He lamented the lost break chance in the third set.
"I had another chance to break him to get even, and didn't make him play again," Haas said. "When you play on the top level like this and you don't use your chances or make your opponent play, then ... therefore I don't deserve it."
Malisse will next play Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina, who defeated lucky loser Dmitry Tursunov of Russia, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Also, in the second round, Ricardo Mello of Brazil defeated qualifier Amir Hadad of Israel, 6-3, 6-1, and Hrbaty beat Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-2.
Today's featured matches in the Mercedes-Benz Cup tournament at UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center:
Stadium Court (beginning at noon): Paul Goldstein vs. Paradorn Srichaphan, Thailand; Andre Agassi vs. Kevin Kim; Zack Fleishman vs. Gilles Muller, Luxembourg.
(beginning at 7:30 p.m.): Robby Ginepri vs. James Blake; Jonathan Erlich, Israel/Andy Ram, Israel vs. Sebastian Grosjean, France/Cyril Saulnier, France.