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Italians Open Eastbourne Bids; Verdasco Ousts Dolgopolov

Eastbourne, Great Britain

Fognini© Getty ImagesFabio Fognini battled past Grega Zemlja in his opener.

Eighth seed Fabio Fognini is bidding to become the second Italian winner in three years at the Aegon International, and opened his campaign with a hard-fought 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Grega Zemlja on Monday in Eastbourne. 

Andreas Seppi lifted the trophy at Devonshire Park in 2011 (d. Tipsarevic) and Fognini will look to add to his countryman’s success by winning his first ATP World Tour title. The 26 year old reached the quarter-finals in Eastbourne last year (l. to Roddick).

Seventh seed Seppi was also victorious on day one, coming from a set down to edge Guillaume Rufin 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 47 minutes.

Spain’s Fernando Verdasco rallied after a slow start to knock out sixth seed Alexandr Dolgopolov 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. The left-hander is chasing his first ATP World Tour title since 2010 and goes on to face Albert Ramos for a place in the quarter-finals after the Spaniard knocked out American qualifier James Blake 6-2, 6-4.

The 29-year-old Verdasco dropped only five points on serve in the second and third sets to clinch victory in 75 minutes. He has a grass court record of 31-21 and was the runner-up at this ATP World Tour 250 grass-court tournament in 2008 (l. to Karlovic), when it was held at Nottingham.

American qualifier Ryan Harrison worked hard for his sixth win of the season. The 21 year old battled past France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(4) in just under two hours, firing 11 aces to avenge the defeat he suffered to Mathieu last month in Nice.

British wild card Kyle Edmund recorded his first tour-level win as he defeated French qualifier Kenny De Schepper 6-4, 6-4. World No. 442 Edmund, who won the Roland Garros boys’ doubles title just over a week ago, lost only nine points on serve to beat the No. 82-ranked De Schepper in 64 minutes. The 18 year old, who is donating half his prize money this week to The Royal Marsden, goes on to face second-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon for a place in the quarter-finals.

Edmund, who lost his debut tour-level match last week to Grega Zemlja, said, "I have been training hard after the loss at Queen's, really trying to put what I could have done better from that match and make it better. I have been really focusing on returning. It's just as well [I did] playing the guy I played who's got a big serve. I just had the intent of trying to put a lot of balls into play and go from there. It worked out great. I'm just happy to get the win after being given a wildcard and this great opportunity."

Happy Birthday For Paes
Leander Paes celebrated his 40th birthday by partnering Radek Stepanek to a 5-7, 7-6(5), 10-6 victory over Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the first round. Paes and Stepanek are reuniting for the first time since a first-round exit at the Australian Open. They won three titles last year, including victory at the Australian Open.

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