Stanislas Wawrinka struggled to set up a Portugal Open quarter-final against the host nation’s man of the moment, with the Swiss second seed forced to fight through for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Albert Ramos on Thursday.
The victory, which was sealed on a fifth match point, will cast 16th-ranked Wawrinka as the villain when he takes on Portuguese wild-card Gastao Elias, who won only the second ATP-level match of his career when he beat Denis Istomin 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Wawrinka, a semi-finalist on his Portugal debut last year, admitted that he might have arrived too early at the event where he had a bye into the second round and the latest possible start.
The Swiss even tweeted this week that he bought a PlayStation to help pass some of his free time after coming in last Friday night from Geneva.
“Maybe I arrived a bit early, but the first match of the tournament is always tough, especially if the guy already has played a match,” he said of Ramos.
The Swiss made a fast recovery after world No. 57 Ramos ran off with the first set, but closing down the contest was tough, with Wawrinka failing on four match points in the penultimate game on his opponent’s serve.
He finally got the win a game later after trailing 0-40.
“It’s true I had my chances and maybe I was thinking about those that I missed,” the 28-year-old said.
The win for Elias came as the world No. 113 played in a main draw for only the second time this season.
Third seed Andreas Seppi of Italy defeated Alejandro Falla 6-4, 6-0 while Tommy Robredo put out Robin Haase 6-4, 6-4 with the two winners set to meet in another quarter-final.
In the women’s draw, former French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova lost in straight sets to Romina Oprandi, the outsider earning a 6-2, 6-2 quarter-final win.
“Unfortunately this was just one of those days where I wish I hadn’t even stepped on the court,” said the 27-year-old, who won the French Open in 2009, five years after lifting the US Open.
Kuznetsova lost in 63 minutes without earning a break point against the 53rd-ranked Swiss.
Oprandi earned her third career semi-final at WTA level. She was next due to face third-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated Russian compatriot Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3).
Spanish fourth seed Carla Suarez Navarro, the runner-up last year to Kaia Kanepi, beat Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-2, 6-4. Kanepi set up a re-run of the final from 12 months ago with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Japan’s Ayumi Morita.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Kristina Mladenovic of France won their quarter-final against Nina Bratchikova of Russia and Varvara Lepchenko of the US 6-2, 6-1.
Additional reporting by staff writer