Houston, Apr 11: Defending champion Ryan Sweeting held off qualifier Ricardo Mello of Brazil 6-3, 7-6 (6) in a first-round match of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships on Tuesday.
The American is unseeded this year as his ranking has fallen from 93 at last year's event to 143.
Sweeting missed a chance to take charge of the second set when he took Mello to three break points in the 11th game before Mello fought back to hold for a 6-5 lead. Sweeting held serve in the 12th game to force the tiebreaker.
In earlier opening-round matches, Igor Kunitsyn of Russia beat Xavier Malisse of Belgium 6-4, 6-2, Paolo Lorenzi of Italy beat Wayne Odesnik of the U.S. 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3 and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina beat Adrian Ungur of Romania 6-3, 6-3.