Juan Martin del Potro continued his encouraging buildup to the Australian Open by reaching the semi-finals of the Sydney International yesterday, but women’s contender Petra Kvitova was stunned by a Bulgarian qualifier in the last four.
World No. 5 Del Potro was dragged into a scrap by Radek Stepanek and needed to recover from a mid-match meltdown before fending off the Czech veteran 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a clash with 2008 champion Dmitry Tursunov.
Mixing patchy phases with occasional flashes of brilliance, the 2009 US Open champion appeared close to losing his cool at times and joked that only his shortage of racquets had prevented him from slamming one into the hardcourt in frustration.
Del Potro has stuck to his older-generation Wilson racquets religiously, but has only two left, and is reluctant to change to a new one before the year’s first Grand Slam.
Fiery Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis famously destroyed four of his racquets during a loss against Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka at the 2012 Australian Open and Del Potro said he had been similarly tempted when struggling against Stepanek.
“Yeah, I was close, but I can’t do that yet. When I get eight or 10 racquets, I will smash all of them,” he quipped to reporters.
Defending champion Bernard Tomic strolled past Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4, 6-3 and is to meet another Ukrainian in Sergiy Stakhovsky in the other semi-final.
Despite crashing out of the semi-finals to 107th-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova, second seed and former Wimbledon champion Kvitova was relaxed about her 6-4, 6-3 loss four days ahead of the start of the Australian Open.
“I think the matches I played were great and I have three under my belt,” the Czech world No. 6 said. “So I think it’s really good to have this record coming to Australian Open.”
Pironkova, a one-time Wimbledon semi-finalist, is the first qualifier to reach the Sydney final and is to battle German Angelique Kerber, who swatted aside Madison Keys in straight sets, for the title.
In Melbourne, world No. 7 Tomas Berdych advanced to tomorrow’s final in the invitational Kooyong Classic with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Japan’s top-ranked Kei Nishikori. Berdych is to play the winner of an all-French semi-final today between Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon.
Meanwhile, top seed David Ferrer snuffed out a determined challenge from fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to reach the semi-finals of the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand.
The US’ John Isner, seeded third, also advanced into the final four, along with Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun and Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.
World No. 3 Ferrer is seeking a record fifth title in the warm-up event for the Australian Open.
“He [Garcia-Lopez] played unbelievable tennis. I’m very tired now,” said the 31-year-old, who is to meet Lu in the semi-finals after the Taiwanese world No. 62 defeated the US’ Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-4.