Top-seeded Novak Djokovic avoided a first-match upset this time, easily beating Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 6-1, 6-2 yesterday at the Sydney International.
Last week, Djokovic lost in the first round of the Brisbane International. Then, he said he was struggling to find his rhythm with a new racket and wasn’t overly concerned about the loss.
Yesterday, he backed up that claim with a strong display against Mathieu in searing heat at the Olympic Park Tennis Centre.
Top-seeded Serena Williams had the toughest of times in her women’s quarter-final yesterday, saving two match points in the 12th game of the final set before beating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Williams had to save four match points in her first-round match against Samantha Stosur of Australia, and had a straight-sets win in the second round before dueling with Wozniacki for 2 hours, 40 minutes at Ken Rosewall Arena.
While the top-seeded Djokovic, who received a first-round bye, made it through, No. 2-seeded Gilles Simon was a second-round casualty, beaten 6-4, 6-4 by French compatriot Richard Gasquet.
Another Frenchman, third-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga downed Italy’s Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-4, 6-1, though last year’s Australian Open finalist was troubled by a back complaint that twice required treatment.
Argentina’s David Nalbandian also swept into the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Frenchman Michael Llodra.
Jeremy Chardy was the third Frenchman into the last eight, upsetting fifth-seeded Igor Andreev of Russia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 while seventh-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo was beaten 6-2, 6-1 by Mario Ancic.
Ancic will be the next opponent for his good friend Djokovic, with the top seed acknowledging the danger posed by the big-serving Croat.
Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen also won yesterday to reach the quarter-finals.
Second-seeded Dinara Safina of Russia joined Williams in the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over France’s Alize Cornet. Cornet saved four match points in the final game before Safina, who was serving, closed the match out.
Her next opponent is Ai Sugiyama of Japan. Sugiyama made it to the semi-finals without taking to the court, receiving a walkover when former US Open champion and fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia withdrew with an abdominal strain.
Third-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia beat No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in another quarter-final and will face Williams in the semis.
AFP, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
The top seeds in the Heineken Open men’s tournament had to overcome off-season rust to secure their quarter-final spots after three-set battles yesterday.
Top seed Juan Martin Del Potro struggled in the first set against the powerful hitting Latvian Ernests Gulbis before winning 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
The world No. 9 from Argentina clicked into rhythm in the second set after breaking Gulbis at 4-4, forcing his fellow 20-year-old to make costly errors.
“It was a good match for my first time of the year,” Del Potro said. “He is a very good player but I think he got tired in the third set.”
In the quarter-finals, Del Potro faces Serb Viktor Troicki, who beat Argentinian eighth seed Juan Monaco 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Fourth-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro looked short of match practice, after he and the other three top seeds were given byes into the second round.