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Farmers Classic tennis event gives USC's Steve Johnson a wild card

July 23, 2011 |  1:17 pm

Johnson_275 USC NCAA champion Steve Johnson, former top-10 player James Blake, Robby Ginepri and two-time former Farmers Classic winner Tommy Haas were given wild cards into the field for the tournament which begins Monday at UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center. The field is highlighted by 2008 winner Juan Martin del Potro and Wimbledon quarterfinalist Mardy Fish.

Also a late addition into the draw is 19-year-old Ryan Harrison, who earned a special exempt spot by reaching the semifinals of the tournament in Atlanta this week. Harrison is the first American teenager to reach an ATP Tour semifinal since defending champion Sam Querrey in Indianapolis in 2007. Querrey is also the defending champion here next week but he is still recovering from elbow surgery and will miss the event.

The top two seeds for the 2011 tournament are Mardy Fish, the No. 1-ranked American, and Juan Martin del Potro, the 2008 Los Angeles champion who won the U.S. Open in 2009.

Fish, Del Potro, third seed Marcos Baghdatis and fourth seed Thomaz Bellucci all have first-round byes in the draw. The remaining four seeded positions went to, in order, Xavier Malisse, Dmitry Tursunov, Grigor Dimitrov and Igor Kunitsyn.

First-round matches of note include Johnson against 2005 Farmers Classic finalist Gilles Muller, who is also through to the semifinals in Atlanta. The winner of that match will play Fish in the second round.

Harrison will play another young talent in 21-year-old Richard Berankis. Haas drew No. 7-seed Dimitrov in the opening round. Former Australian Open finalist Fernando Gonzalez drew No. 8 Kunitsyn. Another intriguing match will pit Xavier Malisse against Ernests Gulbis. Blake drew Germany's Michael Berrer, and the winner will play Del Potro in the second round.

The qualifying draw was also made on Friday night. Thirty-two players will battle this weekend for four spots in the main draw. The first and second rounds of qualifying are free. Play began Saturday at 10 a.m. and will begin Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Sycamore Courts on UCLA's campus.

Among those trying to make the main draw are Denis Kudla, who made the finals of the U.S. Open junior event last year; Carsten Ball, who played in the Farmers Classic final two years ago; and fourth-ranked Andy Murray brother Jamie.

-- Diane Pucin


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Photo: Steve Johnson. Credit: Jason O. Watson / US Presswire