Fifth seed Fernando Verdasco was on the brink of defeat Monday in the first round the Nature Valley International, losing the first set against Aussie John Millman and dropping the first 10 points of the second set. But the Eastbourne crowd began urging him on, and things changed for the Spaniard.
Verdasco turned the tide on Millman, defeating the World No. 58 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-1 after two hours and 32 minutes. The veteran lefty saved 11 of the 12 break points in his first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against the unseeded Aussie.
Millman took a 4-2 lead in the second set, moving to within just two service holds of victory. But Verdasco claimed 10 of the match’s final 11 games to set a second-round clash against wild card Jay Clarke or Argentine Leonardo Mayer.
It was a successful day for the Americans in Eastbourne, with three men from the United States advancing on the grass. Taylor Fritz defeated British qualifier and this year’s NCAA singles champion, Paul Jubb, 6-2, 6-3 in exactly one hour.
The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier struck 12 aces and won 50 per cent of his return points against the 19-year-old Jubb. Fritz is currently World No. 42, just two spots off his career-best ATP Ranking, and he will try to upset top seed Guido Pella in the second round.
Former World No. 11 Sam Querrey battled past Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 7-6(4) in one hour and 26 minutes. The victory came in the American’s first match since the second week of April in Houston, where he made the semi-finals. Querrey will next face fourth seed Dusan Lajovic.
Steve Johnson, the 2016 Eastbourne champion, won a battle of Americans against reigning New York Open champion Reilly Opelka, withstanding the 21-year-old’s 13 aces to triumph 7-6(4), 6-3 in one hour and 21 minutes.
Johnson is coached by Craig Boynton, who also coaches Hubert Hurkacz, Johnson’s next opponent. Hurkacz upset seventh seed Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-4 in 66 minutes.