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Lopez outlasts injured Dodig

By David Kane
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: Two games from defeat, No. 19 seed Feliciano Lopez turned around a near-disastrous day to survive an inspired, but ultimately injured, Ivan Dodig, 1-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 1-1 ret.

The fourth game of the first set featured several stunning rallies and four break points, the last of which Dodig would win with a searing forehand. Dressed as if for a funeral, Lopez went on a morbid streak of 10 straight points and fell behind a second break to the steadier Croat. With two more aces, Dodig sealed the 24-minute opening set, 6-1.

Looking to start over, Lopez cracked back-to-back aces to open the second set with a much-needed hold. Dodig would make a charge in the ninth game, but Lopez fought off some inspiring play to remain in front. Dodig responded with more brilliance, hitting a tweener winner that brought the Grandstand crowd to its feet. Two games later, however, the pressure overtook Dodig, who lost serve for the first time all day to level the contest.

As the third set got underway, Dodig continued to impress with his shot-making and was the first to break. The Croat began passing the net-rushing Spaniard with increased efficiency to nab a second consecutive break. Lopez appeared as bothered by the New York sun as he had been in the opening set and found himself down two sets to one after a routine hold from Dodig.

Struggling on serve throughout, Lopez dug a hole from which he couldn't escape at 1-1, and Dodig edged ahead in the fourth with a backhand return winner. Just when it looked like the Croat had the upset wrapped up, Lopez smacked a forehand up the line to level things late in the fourth. The break breathed new life into the Spaniard, who broke serve again on a return winner to push a final set.

After losing a fifth straight game, Dodig called the trainer to address a sudden leg injury. Despite soldiering through a hold, the pain became too much for Dodig, who pulled the ripcord one point later.

WHAT IT MEANS: Lopez will next play the winner of the first-round encounter between Tatsuma Ito of Japan and American Steve Johnson. Should the seeds hold, Lopez could play No. 11 seed Ernests Gulbis in the third round.

Lopez has made the fourth round of the US Open twice in his career but has not reached the second week since 2010. Most recently, Lopez had a successful week in Toronto, where he upset two Top 10 players before succumbing to Federer in the semifinals. The 32-year-old has two wins over No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych this year and could be a dangerous opponent for the 2012 semifinalist should the two meet in the round of 16.

THE QUESTION: Can Lopez recover from the long match and improve during his second round?