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American Dent serves way to first round, five set win



Published: Tue, June 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The No. 24 seed will play Britan's Kevin Kim in the second round.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- In Taylor Dent's opinion, winning is all about his ability to hold serve, regardless of what his coach might say.

On opening day at Wimbledon, Dent proved that theory to be true, losing only one service game to beat qualifier Dick Norman 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-7 (7), 6-1.

"For me, hitting accurate serves is probably the biggest piece of the pie," Dent said after the three-hour, 22-minute victory Monday.

The No. 24-seeded Dent tends to be an independent thinker, and he has had a series of coaches during his seven years on tour.

Arrives without coach

He arrived at Wimbledon without a coach after severing his most recent alliance with former tour player Francisco Montana following the Key Biscayne tournament in late March.

Dent acknowledged he's frequently at odds with coaches when they disregard his notion about succeeding, pushing him to concentrate on improving his ability to break an opponent's serve.

"I feel like I'm very stubborn when I believe something," Dent said. "If they're going to say, 'Oh, jump off the Empire State Building, you'll be fine,' I'll say, 'But, you know, gravity is going to happen and it's a hard floor down there, what about that?' And they say, 'No, no, you'll be fine.'

"You know, forgive me if I don't jump."

Two other American men also won, and two lost.

Dent next plays compatriot Kevin Kim, who beat British wild card Alex Bogdonovich 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

Lucky loser Justin Gimelstob, who has never gone beyond the third round at Wimbledon, defeated Adrian Garcia of Chile 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

Two Americans lose

Qualifier Jeff Morrison, playing in only his second Wimbledon, was eliminated by Jonas Bjorkman 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2.

Wild card James Blake, staging a career comeback after missing much of last year because of shingles and a neck injury, lost to Jan Hernych 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4).

"I still take a positive from this because I am healthy," Blake said.

"Last year at this time I wasn't healthy, so it has been a big step for me."

Dent's big serve makes him a threat on grass, but he came to Wimbledon with a modest 5-5 career record at the All England Club.

He has an injury-plagued history, and his match against Norman was only his third in nearly three months.

Serve-and-volley duel

It was a classic serve-and-volley grass-court duel: Dent hit 23 aces, Norman 25. And Norman -- at 34 is the oldest player in the men's draw -- refused to fold after losing the first two sets without dropping his serve.

Dent, who sometimes goes for too much on too many shots, made his own trouble in the fourth-set tiebreaker, squandering three match points with faulty shots. He smacked a high backhand crosscourt volley wide to extend the match into a decisive fifth set.

A series of errors, including a double-fault to 15-30, cost Norman his serve in the opening game of the final set, and Dent led the rest of the way.

"It was so much tension in the tiebreaker of the fourth set where I had to save three match points," Norman said. "When you have to save a match point against Dent who is serving, it's pretty stressful."




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