Defending champion and top seed David Ferrer survived a scare as he suffered a mid-match slump under pressure from Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun, eventually grinding out a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory to reach the quarter-finals of the ATP tournament in Auckland yesterday.
“The court was very fast and sometimes I couldn’t defend, but anyway, I won the match,” a relieved Ferrer said.
Chasing a record-equaling fourth Auckland title, the Spanish world No. 5 made a perfect start by breaking Lu in the second game, aided by three double faults from his opponent.
The dogged Lu broke back seven games later, only for Ferrer immediately to regain his advantage and take the first set 6-4.
However, the Spaniard’s serve misfired in the second and Lu, world No. 60, helped himself to a double break, claiming the set 6-2 to force a decider.
Ferrer regrouped and won the set 6-3 to set up a quarter-final today with Slovak Lukas Lacko, who defeated eighth seed Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 6-3, 7-5.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, the second seed, was also unconvincing and committed 52 unforced errors and four double faults in a rusty 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-3 win over Colombian Alejandro Falla.
The German managed an early break and appeared to be cruising as he raced to a 5-2 lead in the first set, before Falla broke back to force a tie-break, which the German comfortably won 7-4.
However, Falla, a quarter-finalist last year, continued to press Kohlschreiber in the second, breaking the world No. 19’s serve in the 10th game to claim the set 6-4.
Kohlschreiber finally took control to win the third set 6-3, with the German opening up a double break over Falla as his ground shots finally found their range.
“It was very tough, Alejandro played very good points and it was very difficult for me to hang in there,” he said. “In the end, I was very happy with my performance.”
Kohlschreiber, the 2008 Auckland champion, will face Belgian veteran Xavier Malisse in the quarters.
There were no form problems for former world No. 7 Gael Monfils, who never looked threatened as he disposed of Australian qualifier Greg Jones 6-4, 6-2.
The Frenchman, whose ranking plummeted to No. 77 while he was sidelined with a knee injury, was back to his acrobatic best, showing no sign of discomfort as he threw himself around the court.
“Obviously, I was moving great, so I’m happy and pleased with my performance,” he said.
A wildcard entry in Auckland, Monfils lines up against Tommy Haas in the last eight after the German third seed downed Igor Sijsling 6-3, 6-4.
Fourth seed Sam Querrey defeated Belgium’s Olivier Rochus 7-5, 6-3 to set up a quarter-final with Jesse Levine of Canada.
US qualifier Ryan Harrison upstaged his top-seeded countryman John Isner 6-4, 6-4 in a second-round match at the Sydney International yesterday.
The exit of Isner, who was promoted to the No. 1 seeding after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet withdrew, followed two more injury withdrawals: No. 2 and 2011 Sydney champion Giles Simon (neck) and No. 6 Radek Stepanek (back).
Isner, who withdrew from the Hopman Cup mixed team competition in Perth last week with a right knee injury, lasted 71 minutes against No. 64th-ranked Harrison.
The Australian Open starts on Monday, leaving injured players little time to prepare for the season’s first major.