Early exit for Knowles and new partner in Indian Wells

By RENALDO DORSETT Sports Reporter rdorsett@tribunemedia.net IT WAS an early exit for Bahamian tennis ace Mark Knowles and his new partner in the latest event on the ATP Tour in California on Sunday. Knowles, 40, and Nicolas Almagro of Spain lost to Canadian Daniel Nestor (Knowles' former partner) and Max Mirnyi of Belarus 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Knowles and Almagro were one of two wild card entries in the draw. They converted just 2-6 (33 per cent) break points, 15-37 (41 per cent) on second return points and just 3-11 (27 per cent) on break points. Nestor and Mirnyi, the No.2 ranked duo, converted 8-11 break points (73 per cent), 15-21 on second return points (71 per cent) and 4-6 (67 per cent) on break points won. Identical twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan are ranked number one while the third ranked team of Michael Llorda and Nenad Zimonjic were eliminated by Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez. This year is the 37th edition of the men's event (24th for the women), for the BNP Paribas Open, classified as an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event on the 2012 ATP World Tour and a premier mandatory event on the 2012 WTA Tour. As they did with most events on the ATP tour, Knowles and Nestor had a rich history together in the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. The former No.1 ranked duo in the world won the tournament title in 1997, 2002, 2005 and 2006. Earlier in the year, Knowles partnered with Xavier Malisse for much of the year and captured one title - the SAP Open in San Jose, California. They won 6-4, 1-6, 10-4 over the team of Kevin Anderson and Frank Moser. The week before, Knowles played with Anderson at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis, Tennessee, but they didn't advance out of the first round. The duo's bid for their second straight tournament victory was ruined when they got eliminated in the second round of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships. They lost 7-6 (4), 6-4 to the team of Michal Mertinak of Slovakia and Brazilian Sa Andre. Mertinak teamed up with Knowles last year before he went down with an injury. Knowles and Malisse were seeded at No.4 in the tournament. They won their first round with a 6-4, 6-3 decision over Stafano Ianni of Italy and Denis Kudla of the US. Knowles won in 2006 alongside Daniel Nestor when they defeated Chris Haggard and Wesley Moodie of South Africa, 6-2, 6-3. In 1998, fellow Bahamian Mark Merklein reached the finals of the Delray Beach International, playing with American Vince Spadea. However they lost 7-5, 6-4 to Grant Stafford of South Africa and Kevin Ullyet of Zimbabwe. Knowles dropped significantly in the ATP computer ranking after his dismal showing last year. He was ranked No.63, the lowest he has been since he was ranked No.4 in 2002. Malisse, 31, is currently ranked at number 63. Since posting the top ranking in 2002, Knowles has began a progressive decline in the rankings and he started to win fewer tournaments after he and his long-time partner Nestor began the trek to dissolving their partnership. In 2007 when they finally quit, Knowles has struggled with partner after partner each year. In 2008, he won three titles with Indian Mahesh Bhupathi and in 2009, he got another victory with Bhupathi. Also in 2009, he and American Mardy Fish teamed up to win their only tournament before he did the same last year with Malisse. In December, Malisse was here to play in Knowles' Celebrity Tennis Invitational at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. Since turning pro in 2002, Knowles has won 54 doubles titles and played in another 44 finals. He also won a singles title in Shanghai in 1996.


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