The Sydney warm-up to the Australian Open has proved a graveyard
for the seeds this week but the 25-year-old former U.S. Open
champion avoided an early flight to Melbourne by coming back to win
1-6 6-3 6-4.
Rated a dark horse to win the title at Melbourne Park and add to his
sole grand slam triumph at Flushing Meadows in 2009, the top seeded
Argentine will next take on Czech veteran Radek Stepanek for a place
in the last four.
Other seeds struggled, with No.3 Andreas Seppi from Italy bundled
out by Australia's Marinko Matesovic 6-3 6-4 and sixth seed Julien
Benneteau of France dumped in straight sets by Ukraine's Sergiy
Defending champion Bernard Tomic advanced with a hard-fought 6-3 4-6
6-4 win over Slovenian qualifier Blaz Kavcic, continuing his habit
of raising his game for home fans at the start of the year.
The rangy 21-year-old, ranked 52nd in the world, has disappointed
some in Australia for failing to live up to sky-high expectations
and has been drawn into controversy by his coach and father John
Tomic senior has been barred from the Australian Open after a court
in Spain convicted him of assaulting his son's former hitting
partner last year.
"The majority of the crowd like me in Australia," the 21-year-old
Tomic told reporters after setting up a quarter-final with Ukraine's
"At the end of the day, if you win, it's going to put a zip to
The women's draw, which has already seen top seed Agnieszka
Radwanska and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki sent
packing, lost third seed Sara Errani, last year's surprise French
Open semi-finalist, who was upset 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 by Bulgaria's
Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarter-finals.
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The Italian world number seven took a medical time-out in the
second set to have treatment on her lower back, raising concerns
over her fitness ahead of the year's first grand slam.
Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Pironkova will play second seed
and former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who wore down Lucie
Safarova 7-6 6-2, for a place in the final.
The invitational Kooyong Classic kicked off in Melbourne's leafy
eastern suburbs on Wednesday, with a smattering of men's top 10
players warming up at the eight-man exhibition, which offers the
same surface used at Melbourne Park.
World number seven Tomas Berdych roared back from a 5-2 deficit
in the first set to overhaul Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-5 6-2
in his first hit-out of 2014 in brilliant sunshine.
Japanese number one Kei Nishikori also enjoyed an opening win
over Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.
World number nine Richard Gasquet of France nearly suffered an
embarrassing defeat by teenager Jordan Thompson, and had to save
two match points before fending off the 321st-ranked Australian
7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-4).
Sam Stosur's stuttering revival after a dismal Hopman Cup
continued with a second straight win at the Hobart International
in front of home fans.
The former U.S. Open champion had to save two match points
against 54th-ranked Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic as she
labored through a 6-4 2-6 7-6 (9-7) match blighted by an
astonishing 22 double-faults from both players.
World number three David Ferrer, bidding for his fourth straight
Auckland Open crown, began his 10th appearance in the event with
a 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 6-1 win over American Donald Young.
(Editing by John O'Brien and Ken Ferris)
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