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August 19, 2017

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Emotional Xavier Malisse snaps 7-year Los Angeles losing streak

LOS ANGELES -- Xavier Malisse snapped a racket over his knee in a fit of anger but eventually got his game under control to end a four-match, first-round losing streak at the Los Angeles Open on Tuesday.

The fifth-seeded Belgian levelled his record at the ATP Tour event at 8-8 as he beat recent UCLA graduate Nicolas Meister, of the U.S., 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the second round.

It marked the first match win for Malisse here since 2005 when he defeated Tommy Haas in the second round and eventually reached the quarter-finals.

Meister was the lowest-ranked player in the qualifying field at 625 and was playing in his first ATP main draw event. He won three qualifying matches in as many days, losing just one set to enter the tournament.

The 32-year-old Malisse, who is ranked 72nd in the world, got off to a quick start in the opening set but then got bogged down as the challenger started to threaten.

Malisse had a minor meltdown after dropping serve in the eighth game of the opener as Meister broke with a lob to reach four-all.

But the European veteran recovered in a marathon ninth game, breaking back on a fifth-break point from his opponent's backhand out.

Malisse re-established his serve, taking the set 6-4 after 59 minutes. He ran away with the second as his game started to click, clinching the set on his first match point from Meister's backhand error.

"In the first set, I was trying to find my game," said Malisse, who lost in the Atlanta first round last week after a Wimbledon fourth-round showing. "In the second set I played really well.

"Hopefully I can keep this up. I didn't know my opponent's game, but I remembered that I had hit with him before. He's a good player who hangs in.

"Now that I'm getting older, maybe I'm not thinking so much on court and letting it flow. The grass season was good for me, but I'm still a bit tired."

There was a contrasting fate for veteran James Blake, with the 2007 runner-up falling to Germany's Tobias Kamke 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (7/4) in a two-and-a-quarter-hour thriller.

The number 108 claimed only his fourth match win of the season against 13 defeats.

Kamke wobbled while leading a set and a break, with Blake finding new life as he won the second set. But the American was unable to keep up the pace despite recovering a break and serving for the match leading 5-3.

Blake went down in the tiebreaker for his eighth loss from nine matches this season.

Kamke, making his Los Angeles debut, said he had some luck on his side.

"I played my best in the beginning and then he started to play better in the second," he said.

"I just tried to win every point, it worked out pretty well for me. I'm glad to be through into the second round. When I was down in the third set, I still had a small chance and that was enough tonight."

American Michael Russell earned a second-round place as he beat compatriot Jesse Levine 6-3, 6-4 while Russian Igor Andreev put out Israeli Dudi Sela 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.

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