Tennis: Sela still can't find rhythm, falling in Montreal's first round

Federer, Murray cruise in first action since Wimbledon; Rafa's back, could lose his No. 2 ranking to Briton.

federer basa 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
federer basa 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Dudi Sela's struggles in North America continued on Tuesday night when he was knocked out in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, losing 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to Alejandro Falla. Since Israel defeated Russia 4-1 to advance to the semifinals of the Davis Cup a month ago, the 24-year-old has played in four tournaments in North America and has only managed to win two of his six matches. Sela (ranked No. 34 in the world) seemed to be heading towards a victory in Tuesday's rain-interrupted match when he came back from a set down to open a 3-0 lead in the third set. However, Falla (163) reeled off the last six games of the encounter and sent the Israeli packing after a single match in Montreal. Andy Ram had a much better day, advancing to the quarterfinals of the doubles tournament with Max Mirnyi. Ram and Mirnyi, seeded seventh in Montreal, defeated Rafael Nadal, in his first match since the Roland Garros, and Francisco Roig 4-6, 6-3, 10-8. Meanwhile, Roger Federer, playing for the first time since winning Wimbledon, returned to the court with a 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over Canada's Frederic Niemeyer on Tuesday night. Federer, who took time off while his wife gave birth to twin girls, took a set to find his range and then the top-ranked Swiss star put away the low-ranked Niemeyer. The 33-year-old Niemeyer, whose ranking has tumbled to 487th, plans to retire at the end of this season. "He's a nice man," said Federer. "It's sad when you leave the game, but he seems happy with himself, so I wish him well. ... We played each other in a satellite tournament in front of two people. It was snowing outside. And 11 years later we're playing in front of a packed house here in Montreal." Niemeyer had a double-fault in the first set tiebreaker, and then lost his serve at 3-3 in the second set and Federer served out the match. "The atmosphere was unbelievable," Niemeyer said. "It's my last match here and I was able to play the way I'm capable of playing. Too bad it was my last one, but I have no regrets. I just enjoyed the moment." Federer said Niemeyer gave him trouble with his serve, which made it difficult to establish a rhythm in his game. "After five or six weeks of not playing matches, just practice matches and volleys, you're a little slow on the returns," Federer said. Earlier in the day, Andy Murray - also playing his first match since Wimbledon - beat France's Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-2. Murray lost to Andy Roddick in the semifinals at Wimbledon, but he was in control from the start against Chardy. "I feel better, now I've got through the first one, because you lose your rhythm a bit," said the third-seeded Murray. "I didn't really have more than six or seven days off without playing a match for a long time." Murray is off to the best start of his career with a 46-7 record, winning four tournaments this year. With Rafael Nadal struggling on sore knees, Murray can overtake the Spaniard for the No. 2 ranking if he wins the tournament. Murray also could attain No. 2 if he reaches the final and Nadal loses in the semifinals. "I've been asked about it a lot so, it's impossible not to think about it. But when I'm playing my match, it's the furthest thing from my mind," Murray said the rankings. Nadal is scheduled to play singles on Wednesday for the first time since he lost in the fourth round of the French Open. Also Tuesday, in women's action, top-ranked Dinara Safina rallied past unseeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the third round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Open on Tuesday. Safina, who entered in her 17th consecutive week at No. 1, came up with a service break with Vinci serving for the match in the second set at 5-4. She won three straight games to force a third set, then came from 3-1 down in the third to squeeze past Vinci for a third straight time. Third-seeded Venus Williams, making her Cincinnati debut, won 11 of the last 13 games and rolled past Belarusian qualifier Olga Govortsova 6-2, 6-2 to move into the third round in the day's closer, which started 90 minutes late because of earlier rain delays. Shahar Pe'er and Gisela Dulko advanced to the second round of the doubles tournament on Tuesday, defeating Natalie Grandin and Sarah Borwell 6-3, 6-2.