Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun overcame a skittish start to advance to the third round of the men’s singles at the Australian Open yesterday, matching his best showing ever at the first Grand Slam of the year.
Lu, currently ranked No. 79 in the world, upended Florent Serra of France 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in just over two hours, setting up a challenging third-round battle against hard-hitting 11th seed Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
The only other time Lu has advanced as far at the Australian Open was in 2009, after stunning 10th seed David Nalbandian of Argentina in a marathon five-setter.
Against Serra, Lu struggled in his opening service game of the match and nearly gave the lower-ranked Frenchman an early confidence boost, but after falling behind 0-40, Lu won the next five points to hold serve and he was never challenged again, winning 52 of his final 60 service points, while breaking Serra five times.
The 28-year-old, whose best Grand Slam showing was a quarter-final appearance at Wimbledon in 2010, needed a grueling five-set victory over South African lucky loser Rik de Voest to get out of the first round.
He will have to raise his game to hold his own against del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion.
The two have played each other once, in 2009 in Washington, with the Argentine coming out on top 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The only other Taiwanese player in a main singles draw at Melbourne Park, Chang Kai-chen, was eliminated.
An erratic Chang lost 6-4, 6-2 to 13th-seeded Jelena Jankovic in the second round of the women’s singles.
She was broken five times in 10 service games and committed 45 unforced errors to Jankovic’s 30.
The 21-year-old has never advanced beyond the second round of a Grand Slam event.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Chuang Chia-jung and her partner, Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, fell at the first hurdle when they were beaten in the first round by Spanish duo Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 7-6 (7/2).
In the men’s singles, Rafael Nadal advanced to the third round without much trouble from his opponent or his injured right knee, while his rival Roger Federer got through without picking up a racket.
Nadal beat German veteran Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in 2 hours, 30 minutes, declaring that the twisted tendon in his heavily taped knee was not a concern.
Just before Federer was due on the Hisense Arena, the Swiss player found out that his scheduled opponent, Germany’s Andreas Beck, had a back injury and had to withdraw.
“Now, I’ll just take it easy this afternoon and come out tomorrow and hit intensely, and then I’ll be ready for the next match,” said Federer, a four-time Australian Open champion.
Nadal, asked after his match if he would have appreciated the same kind of good fortune, was pragmatic.
“Before the day started, yes,” he said, smiling. “Now that I’ve played and won, I’m happy. It was a positive match, but not that demanding. We didn’t play four hours, five hours. Three sets, so it wasn’t that tough.”
Nadal and Federer could meet in the semi-finals next week.
Top seed Novak Djokovic and fourth seed Andy Murray, the threats from the other side of the draw, play their second-round matches today.
Two of the women’s title contenders, defending champion Kim Clijsters and world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, both won their second-round matches on their way to a potential quarter-final meeting.