Top seed Stanislas Wawrinka began the new year by sailing into the quarter-finals of the ATP Chennai Open on Wednesday, even as second seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia withdrew due to illness.
The Swiss world No. 8 overcame two rain interruptions to defeat Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-3, 6-1 on the center court of the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium.
Wawrinka had emerged from the shadows of legendary compatriot Roger Federer last year with semi-final appearances at the US Open and the ATP World Tour Finals, where he lost both times to Novak Djokovic.
The Swiss said ahead of the US$450,000 Chennai event, which he won in 2011, that a consistent display in the tournament will serve him well at the Australian Open in mid-January.
“It’s a good start,” Wawrinka said. “I was really happy with my performance today. It was humid out there after the rain, but I was focused. I feel good about my game.”
Youzhny, who won the title in 2008 with an astonishing 6-0, 6-1 rout of Rafael Nadal in the final, appeared unsettled as Dudi Sela of Israel raced to a 3-1 lead before the Russian conceded the match.
The world No. 15, who like Wawrinka was given a bye in the first round, said he failed to recover from a stomach bug he picked up in Thailand last week.
“I wanted to play, but I was not powerful enough to play,” the 31-year-old veteran said. “When you have a restricted movement, its no use playing on center court and losing.”
Sela, ranked 73rd in the world, is to take on seventh seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France in the quarter-finals.
The Frenchmen cruised to a 6-4, 6-4 win over 85th-ranked Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, who at 20 years of age is the youngest player in the ATP top-100 list.
“I feel relieved because it was a tough match,” the 52nd-ranked Roger-Vasselin said. “I got nervous when it began to rain at match point, but luckily we were back on for just two more points. At least we did not need a third set.”
Roger-Vasselin said Youzhny’s withdrawal did not give him an easy passage into the semi-finals, since Sela was always a tough opponent.
“Dudi is a very good player,” he said. “I know him really well. We have played each other a few times. Dudi may not be as high in the rankings as Youzhny, but you can never tell. A few mistakes would make it tough, but if I play good, I have a chance to win. I will be ready for sure.”
Wawrinka’s quarter-final opponent is to be unseeded Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia, whose Russian opponent Alexander Kudryavtsev conceded the match in the second set due to a leg injury.
Bedene lost the first set 1-6, but was leading 3-0 in the second when the match ended.
Two other leading contenders who had first-round byes, third seed Fabio Fognini of Italy and No. 4 Benoit Paire of France, were to begin action yesterday.