Ernests suffers close loss to Haas
The Madrid Masters had barely begun before Ernests was bundled out in a three-set loss to former world No. 2, Tommy Haas of Germany.
This is Ernests’ final tournament before Roland Garros in Paris, where he is defending 500 points.
Haas, now ranked 75th in the world, had to come through qualifying before facing Ernests but that also allowed him the advantage of match practice on the Madrid clay.
He took the first set in only 33 minutes, breaking Ernests twice while not offering a break point of his own.
Ernests got into trouble early in the second set, double-faulting on break point to surrender his service game to Haas for a 0:2* deficit.
Ernests appeared unable to take control until 2:5* in the second set, where he saved match point and proceeded to win five straight games to clinch the set 7:5 with two consecutive aces.
At the start of the final set, both men were hampered by their plummeting first serve percentages (Ernests: 25%; Haas: 45%).
As he did in the second set, Ernests was broken in his opening service game to hand Haas a 2*:0 lead.
However, Ernests clawed back into the match by breaking Haas in the seventh game – taking advantage of a double-fault by the German which set up break point.
He was broken back in the next game to trail 3:5*, but promptly returned the favour to go back on serve at 4*:5.
Ernests successfully held serve for 5-all, but was unable to break Haas again, leaving him to serve to stay in the match at 5*:6.
Unfortunately, after all his fighting efforts, Ernests finally buckled under the pressure as Haas managed to bring up another match point for himself, which he duly converted for a berth in the second round against Andy Roddick.
According to plans announced by his former coach, Niki Pilić, last week, Ernests will now travel back to the academy in Munich for the final leg of his Roland Garros preparation.
His first-round and potential opponents in Paris will only be known on 22 May, when the main draw is released by the French Tennis Federation.
MADRID R1: (Q) T. Haas (GER) def. E. Gulbis (LAT) 6:2 5:7 7:5
Photo by Nikolas van Hemelrijck