French top seed and world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo struggled into the Kremlin Cup quarter-finals on Thursday with a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) win over Elena Vesnina of Russia.
Australian Open and Wimbledon winner Mauresmo, who is trying to finish the season as world No 1 for the first time in her career, won her first ever meeting with Russia's 20-year-old in two hours and 21 minutes.
Unheralded Vesnina clinched the vital break in the eighth game of the first set to gain a 5-3 lead. Mauresmo broke back immediately to level at 5-5 but Vesnina produced another break to take the opening set in 42 minutes.
In the second set, Mauresmo tightened her grip and broke twice to take a commanding 4-0 advantage. Vesnina reduced the arrears with a break in the sixth game, but the 27-year-old Frenchwoman broke again to level at one set all after one hour 24 minutes on court.
The opponents traded breaks halfway through the deciding set forcing a tiebreak, which Mauresmo won 7/3 to book a quarter-final spot.
"She played well and I think I didn't play my best tennis. I really missed some easy things that could have made the match easier for me," Mauesmo said.
Mauresmo will now face eight seed Czech Nicole Vaidisova, who saw off Australia's Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-1, for a place in the last four.
Russia's Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova, who were seeded fourth and sixth respectively, also booked their passes into the last eight. Petrova, fresh from her title at Stuttgart last weekend, ousted veteran compatriot Elene Likhovtseva 6-3, 7-5, while Dementieva battled back from a set down to beat Shahar Peer of Israel 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
In the men's section of the tournament, Marat Safin continued on his comeback trail with a final set triumph over Daniele Bracciali to make the last eight.
The former world No 1, now ranked at 65, served seven aces on his way to the quarter-finals with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win.
Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, seeded seven, breezed into the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Russia's Konstantin Kravchuk in just 48 minutes.
US Open champion Maria Sharapova yesterday pulled out of the tournament because of a right foot strain.
The second-seeded Russian had a bye in the first round and beat Eketerina Bychkova in straight sets on Wednesday. She had been set to take on Anna Chakvetadze in the quarterfinals yesterday.
"I felt pain in my right hip back in the hotel after my first match here. I couldn't practice and even walk yesterday. I have to pull out. I'm really disappointed but I have no choice," she said.
John McEnroe returned to the Royal Tennis Hall on Thursday -- 21 years after his fourth and last singles title in the Swedish capital -- and teamed with Jonas Bjorkman to beat Andreas Vinciguerra and Johan Landsberg 6-3, 6-2 in a first-round match at the Stockholm Open.
"It's nice to be back," said McEnroe, who first played Bjorn Borg in the small structure built in the 1930s that is the oldest arena built for tennis on the ATP Tour.
"Obviously, he was the greatest rival I've ever had. I remember the noise the people made with their feet," McEnroe said. "But I don't remember people throwing stuff -- that's a new one."
He was referring to several fans who threw seat cushions onto the court after the match.
"It was surprising, a little disappointing actually to see that. I don't know what was going on. It was sort of weird," he said. "I don't know what they were thinking."