ATP Houston: Jason Kubler bagels Fernando Verdasco. Denis Kudla wins

Daniel Elahi Galan, Gijs Brouwer and Steve Johnson are also through

by Jovica Ilic
ATP Houston: Jason Kubler bagels Fernando Verdasco. Denis Kudla wins

The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship is off and running in Houston, with five first-round duels taking place on Monday. Denis Kudla beat a qualifier Aleksandar Vukic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in an hour and 55 minutes, overcoming the rival's 12 aces and taking two points more.

Kudla defended six out of nine break points and earned four breaks from five opportunities to emerge at the top. Denis forged a 5-2 advantage in the opener and closed it with a hold at 5-4. Vukic played flawless tennis behind the initial shot in the second set and kept the pressure on the other side.

He broke Kudla in the tenth game to wrap up the set and force a decider. They traded early breaks and stayed neck and neck until 4-4. Denis made a decisive break in the ninth game and sealed the deal with a hold at 15 a few minutes later.

Jason Kubler and Denis Kudla made a winning start in Houston.

Daniel Elahi Galan needed an hour and 21 minutes to dismiss Zhizhen Zhang 6-2, 6-3 and move into the last 16. The Colombian fired 12 aces and dropped 12 points in nine service games.

Elahi Galan defended the only break point he faced and kept the pressure on the other side. Zhang gave away 45% of the points in his games and experienced three breaks to end his run in the opening round. Gijs Brouwer ousted Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 15 minutes.

The Dutch player saved all four break points and delivered a single break in each set to control the pace and emerge at the top. Jason Kubler met the veteran Fernando Verdasco and scored a 7-6, 6-0 triumph in an hour and 39 minutes.

The Spaniard led 4-2 in the opening set before the Aussie climbed back and erased the deficit. Fernando grabbed another break at 5-5 but failed to serve out for the set in the next one. Jason broke back at the last moment and introduced a tie break.

The younger player built a 6-4 lead and controlled the scoreboard. Verdasco saved three set points before Kubler grabbed the fourth at 8-7 after the rival's loose forehand for 7-6 after 69 minutes. Jason was the only player on the court in the second set, serving well and delivering three breaks to produce a bagel. The Aussie held at 15 at 5-0 to seal the deal and book a place in the second round.

Fernando Verdasco Denis Kudla Steve Johnson