Sela, Pe'er both fight valiantly but fall

Tennis: Roddick makes triumphant return to court; ITF appeals cocaine ruling clearing Gasquet.

DUDI SELA CROUCHING 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
(photo credit: AP [file])
Dudi Sela fell to 0-3 in his career against Lleyton Hewitt following a second round defeat at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington late Wednesday night, while Shahar Pe'er dropped to 0-5 against Nadia Petrova after losing to the Russian in the second round of the Los Angeles Women's Tennis Championships. Both Israelis pushed their illustrious opponents to three sets, but neither managed to pull off an impressive victory. Sela, No. 34 in the world, received a first round bye as the 15th seed, but lost 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 to the former world No. 1 Hewitt, who is currently ranked 42nd. "He doesn't have the biggest serve out there," Hewitt said. "I was trying to be aggressive. "I'm trying to get as many tough matches as possible this week and I feel I'm getting better with each match," he said. Like Sela, Pe'er (ranked 65) also lost the first set and, despite entering the decisive third set with momentum on her side, was defeated 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 after losing the final four games of the encounter. "I'm happy I won today, but I need to do a better job staying focused," said world No. 10 Petrova. "I need to work one point at a time and finish off the match as soon as possible. I'm happy I was able to come away with the win today." In other action, the top-seeded Andy Roddick beat Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the American's first match since losing the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. "I was certainly eager to get back out there," Roddick said. Roddick took the extended break to recover from a right hip flexor injury sustained in the July 5 match. He said earlier in the week he had recovered. The long layoff showed in several shots hit long or wide, but he remained in control of the match throughout. He never faced a break point, and had eight aces - including the match winner - with no double-faults. "If I have to have one thing that's rusty that I don't worry about it coming around, it's probably my serve," he said. In Los Angeles, top-seeded Dinara Safina comfortably progressed to the round of 16 with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over experienced Slovakian Daniel Hantuchova on Wednesday. Safina, who had a first-round bye, set up a clash with China's Zheng Jie after the 14th seed proved too strong for Russian Elena Vesnina 6-4, 4-6, 6-0. Safina's chances of winning the Los Angeles title were further boosted by the elimination of two of her main rivals: third-seeded Victoria Azarenka was beaten 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2 by Maria Sharapova, and fourth-seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki fell 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) to Romanian Sorana Cirstea. Still in comeback mode after missing seven months because of a shoulder injury, Russian Sharapova worked hard over three sets to beat the Belarussian. Sharapova's third-round opponent will be Ukraine's Alona Bondarenko, who beat Czech Lucie Safarova 5-7, 6-4, 7-5. "I knew I was going to have to dig deep and try to find ways," Sharapova said. "I'm pretty happy with the way I was able to hang in with her and really step up when had to. That was the difference between us." In off-court news, the International Tennis Federation has appealed a doping ruling that essentially cleared tennis player Richard Gasquet, who was said to have inadvertently taken cocaine by kissing a woman in a nightclub in March. The ITF said Thursday it was appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after an independent tribunal's decision last month exonerated Gasquet for a positive cocaine test. The Frenchman, who missed the French Open and Wimbledon, was allowed to resume playing after completing a 21⁄2-month retroactive ban. The ITF had sought a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency's code. The tribunal panel of three lawyers said Gasquet consumed no more than "a grain of salt" of the drug, and a long ban would be an injustice. Gasquet won his first matches on the ATP tour at 15 and his ranking peaked at No. 7 after reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2007, when he lost to Roger Federer. AP contributed to this report