Top seed Haas survives thriller in Vienna
By Julia Ferguson
VIENNA, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Top seed Tommy Haas survived a cliffhanger first-round match on Wednesday to keep alive his hopes of defending his title at the indoor CA Trophy.
The German, who has not won a title this year, held his nerve to outlast a spirited 6-2 2-6 7-5 challenge from unseeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny.
The battle seemed all but won by the Russian when he was serving just two points off victory.
But Haas clawed his way back and went on to win his own service to love and wrap up the gruelling contest on the fourth match point.
"I started well, while he didn't get into his rhythm. But then I just went downhill and thought the match was over for me," said Haas, who plays Austrian wild card Juergen Melzer in the second round.
"But then I started fighting and it turned into a bit of a thriller."
Swiss sixth seed Roger Federer barely broke into a sweat as he beat Croatian qualifier Zeljko Krajan 7-5 6-1, while American James Blake was stretched to three sets by countryman Vincent Spadea.
Federer, who is seeking his third title of the year, got off to a slow start in the first set but found his rhythm in the second to wrap the match up after just over an hour's play.
"I'm glad to have won as it's always dangerous for a top 10 player like me playing someone outside the top 100," the Swiss 21-year-old said.
"You've got to be very careful -- I didn't know his game at all."
Federer, who plays Spain's unseeded Tommy Robredo in the second round, played much of the second set from the net, punching winners out of his opponent's reach.
"It would be a dream for me to win this tournament," Federer said. "I've always done well here in the past, so let's hope that this year it's enough to win."
Blake, who is enjoying his breakthrough on the circuit this year after winning a maiden title in Washington, had more difficulty dispatching his opponent 3-6 6-2 6-3.
The all-American showdown was a see-saw affair in the first two sets before Spadea appeared to tire in the final set as Blake shifted up a gear and charged the net more and more.
"I feel great!" the dreadlocked New Yorker said afterwards, but added that he did not count himself among the favourites to win the event.
The home crowd had little cause to cheer when Austria's number one Stefan Koubek suffered his fifth first-round exit in a row, losing 6-3 6-7 7-6 to Czech Radek Stepanek.
Fifth seed Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic became the first to progress to the quarter-finals after sweeping aside Argentine Guillermo Coria 7-5 6-2.