Hsieh Su-wei and Flavia Pennetta lost their bid for a first women’s doubles title as a partnership after they were edged 4-6, 6-4, 10-5 by eighth-seeded Russian duo Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a tight quarter-final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome yesterday.
The second-seeded Taiwanese-Italian duo got off to a flying start at the Foro Italico, breaking their opponents in the first game when Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted when attempting to save a break point.
Hsieh and Pennetta — who it was revealed last week is engaged to be married to fellow Italian tennis player Fabio Fognini — broke the Russians’ serve again in the seventh game to take a 5-2 lead, but their opponents broke straight back and then closed the gap to 5-4.
Hsieh and Pennetta then held their nerve in the 10th game to clinch the first set 6-4 on their first set point.
The second set opened with three breaks of serve, before Hsieh and Pennetta grabbed the advantage when they held serve in the fourth game to claim a 3-1 lead.
However, the Russians broke back in the eighth game to level the set at 4-4, held their serve and then broke again in the 10th to take the set 6-4.
The eighth seeds then took that momentum into the super tiebreak, racing to a 7-2 lead, before the second seeds won three straight games to get it back to 7-5, but it was too little, too late for the Taiwanese-Italian pairing as the Russians won the final three points to close out the victory in 1 hour, 23 minutes.
Hsieh and Pennetta will consider themselves unlucky not to advance after they saved seven of 11 break-point chances and converted four of five.
In the men’s singles on Thursday, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic fought back from a set down to pull out a 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 win over Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci and reach the quarter-finals.
He next faces fifth seed Kei Nishikori, who beat Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-4, 6-3.
Rafael Nadal became the first player to break John Isner’s serve in nearly a month and he did it twice in a 6-4, 6-4 win.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray and Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament. Murray cited fatigue following consecutive clay-court titles in Munich and Madrid, while Williams said she had a right-elbow injury.
Isner held serve in 84 consecutive games stretching back to his last meeting with Nadal on April 16 in the Monte Carlo Masters, when Nadal broke him in the third set and went on to win.
This time, Nadal broke to take a 3-2 lead in the first set with a forehand winner which landed on the line on his first break point. Then the Spaniard produced a whipping forehand return pass up the line off Isner’s second serve to go up 5-4 in the second, quickly closing it out from there.
Nadal next faces eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Dominic Thiem of Austria 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.
Roger Federer closed out a 6-3, 7-5 win over big-serving South African Kevin Anderson.
He next face sixth seed Tomas Berdych, who overcame a strong challenge and a partisan crowd for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2) win over Fognini, the last remaining Italian.
Also through was seventh seed David Ferrer, who defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1, 6-3.
In the women’s singles, second seed Simona Halep routed 1999 Rome champion Venus Williams 6-2, 6-1; two-time champion Maria Sharapova eliminated Serbian qualifier Bojana Jovanovski 6-3, 6-3; and Carla Suarez Navarro defeated Eugenie Bouchard 6-7 (2/7), 7-5, 7-6 (9/7).
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