Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva crashed out of the Sydney International yesterday, leaving them short of vital match practice ahead of next week’s Australian Open.
Denmark’s world No. 1 Wozniacki was knocked out by Slovakia’s 32nd-ranked Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3 in one hour, 40 minutes and was followed out of the tournament by Russian Zvonareva on a rain-interrupted day.
Second-ranked Zvonareva fell to Italian Flavia Pennetta 7-5 7-5, leaving US Open champion third-seeded Kim Clijsters as the highest-ranking seed left in the tournament.
Clijsters cruised into the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
While Clijsters was contemplating a match against seventh seed Victoria Azarenka, Wozniacki and Zvonareva were hastily arranging extra practice to make up for their lack of match play heading into Monday’s season-opening Grand Slam.
“At the start of the new season you always need to get into the match play,” Wozniacki said. “I didn’t feel that I was playing great tennis out there. So I definitely now just need to get some sets going and some training matches, head to Melbourne and get ready. Last year I had the same start, so hopefully slow start, good finish.”
Zvonareva said she struggled to adapt to the windy wet conditions after arriving late on Sunday from Hong Kong.
“I think I will get the chance to play some more points and practice sets against other girls before I start in Melbourne,” she said. “That should be enough. I’m pretty confident about that.”
Azarenka eased into the last eight with a 7-5, 6-3 win over -Israel’s Shahar Peer.
China’s Li Na won her second match of the tournament, accounting for French qualifier Virginie Razzano, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 and will next play former French and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The Russian came back from dropping the opening set to beat home favorite and fourth seed Samantha Stosur, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Russian Alisa Kleybanova will take on Cibulkova in the quarters after overcoming Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2, 6-4.
AP, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
Thomaz Bellucci recovered from a mid-match slump to beat American qualifier Michael Russell 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5 in the first round of the Heineken Open tennis tournament.
Bellucci, ranked 31 and the No. 7 seed, led 6-4, 5-3 before wavering, dropping the second set and falling behind 3-0 in the third in a hard-hitting duel with the 103-ranked Russell.
The 32-year-old American won seven straight games to capture the second set in a tiebreaker and to lead by two service breaks in the third.
The Brazilian broke Russell in the fourth game of the deciding set and again two games later to level the set at 3-3. He then gained the vital break in the 12th and final game, but needed three match points to close out the match in 2 hours, 50 minutes.
Both players contended with bad line calls on crucial points, Bellucci on his first match point and Russell on break point in the sixth game of the deciding set.
French qualifier Adrian Mannarino, playing his eighth match of the past two weeks, beat fifth-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-4, 6-3.
Mannarino lost to American Mardy Fish in the first round at last week’s Brisbane International after winning three matches in qualifying to reach the main draw. He narrowly missed the main draw in Auckland and was forced to play through three more qualifying matches to earn his place opposite Monaco yesterday.
Match play may have been an advantage to the 22-year-old Frenchman who looked sharper than Monaco, who was playing his first match of the year.
Mannarino will now play his compatriot and mentor Arnaud Clement, who beat Xavier Malisse of Belgium 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in a two hour match which he clinched on his fourth match point.
Sixth-seeded David Nalbandian beat Italy’s Fabian Fognini 7-6 (6), 6-4 in his first match of the year.
Nalbandian’s second round opponent will be Germany’s Philipp Petzschner who beat Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3).
Romanian Victor Hanescu beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 7-6 (7), 6-7 (3), 6-4 and will play second-seeded Nicolas Almagro today.
AP, HOBART, Australia
Sixth-seeded Jarmila Groth of Australia has advanced to the quarter-finals of the Hobart International with a 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over Austrian qualifier Tamira Paszek.
The night match was the only singles completed yesterday at Hobart’s Domain Tennis Centre due to rain.
In other matches, fourth-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy won the first set 6-3 against Britain’s Elena Baltacha before rain suspended play.
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