Italian qualifier Andreas Seppi ended Lleyton Hewitt's unconquered 22-match run at the Sydney International with a fighting victory in the quarter-finals yesterday.
Hewitt was bidding for his fifth consecutive tournament victory in the lead-up event to the Australian Open and held two match points, but he could not fend off the tenacious 60th-ranked Seppi and stumbled 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
Seppi will now play unseeded Russian Igor Andreev in today's semi-finals, with US eighth seed James Blake and Russian second seed Nikolay Davydenko meeting in the other semi.
The Australian world number four suffered a series of errors as he served for the third set, and a missed backhand volley and an over-hit forehand on match points ultimately cost him dearly.
"I just played too defensive when I got ahead," Hewitt said. "He played a lot better on my service game than his serve, I just didn't attack enough and didn't put enough pressure on him early on my serve. It really should have been finished off in straight sets."
Hewitt said he still was not feeling right after a stomach ailment struck him down in Monday's first-round win over the US' Vince Spadea.
Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan yesterday pulled out of the tournament with injury, forsaking a quarter-final appearance in order to be fit for the Australian Open.
The 50th-ranked Paradorn made his decision shortly after coming off the court a 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6) winner over Croatia's Ivo Karlovic.
Justine Henin-Hardenne yesterday stormed into the final of the Sydney International, overpowering former US Open champion Svetlana Kusnetsova in a scintillating performance. The Belgian fifth seed, who won here two years ago, was in the zone as she swept to a 6-3, 6-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Russian to set up a date in today's final with Italian Francesca Schiavone.
World number one Roger Federer yesterday promised to stop experimenting and play tournament tennis as he recovered from a rare loss to inflict a sixth straight defeat on Croatian Ivan Ljubicic.
The six-time Grand Slam champion missed his chance to play for a second consecutive Kooyong Classic title after his opening-day defeat to Tommy Haas.
But the Swiss, who lost only four matches last year and is runaway favorite for the season's first Grand Slam, bounced back to beat Ljubicic 6-4, 6-3 in the relegation round.