Lleyton Hewitt’s experience as the first marquee player to take part in the ATP’s round robin experiment took a turn for the worse Thursday in Adelaide when the Australian was eliminated in the round robin portion of the tournament, failing to reach Friday’s knock-out quarterfinal round.
Hewitt couldn’t capitalize on a set and 3-0 lead in the second-set tiebreak against Russian Igor Kunitsyn, who stormed back for a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 win in the blistering-hot conditions, topping a perfect round robin record to advance into the quarterfinals.
Another unseeded player into the quarters was Aussie Chris “Penthouse” Guccione, who upset No. 6 seed Arnaud Clement 7-6(4), 7-6(5), for his third consecutive win over a Top 100 player, a first in his career.
“I’ve beaten [former No. 1 Juan Carlos] Ferrero a couple of times and some other guys in Davis Cup who were pretty high,” Guccione said of his previous best wins. “I’ve played matches where I’ve played really well but I’ve never backed them up and now I’ve won three in a row.”
Other unseeded players into the quarters were American Vince “Ain’t Afraida Ya” Spadea (d. Korolev) and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro (d. (8) Mathieu after getting bageled in the second set), while seeded players into the quarters Thursday were (2) Richard Gasquet (d. Dancevic in three) and (7) Gilles Simon (d. defending champ Serra who retired in the third with an upset stomach).
Friday’s quarterfinal line-up in Adelaide will be (1) Djokovic vs. Goldstein, Guccione vs. (2) Gasquet, Del Potro vs. Kunitsyn, and Spadea vs. the back-from-injury Joachim “The Jackhammer” Johansson.
Hingis, Safina Win; Peer Outrallies Ivanovic at Gold Coast
GOLD COAST, Australia — Martina Hingis and Dinara Safina were both straight set winners at the Mondial Australian Women’s Hardcourts Thursday, and are just one win away from a championship duel between the Top 2 seeds at the $175,000, Tier III event.
Hingis prevailed easily in the feature night match, defeating unseeded Catalina Castano, 63 61, in one hour, seven minutes. It was the Swiss’ second win in two career encounters with the Colombian, having prevailed 61 60 at Roland Garros five and a half years ago.
“When you play such good matches and are on such a high as my last two matches, you often can’t stay at that level every match,” said Hingis, who dropped only three games in her first two matches. “I didn’t start as quickly and she didn’t miss early and was doing well in the rallies. I had some trouble with the loopy balls she was hitting — she was smart.”
Next for Hingis will be another unseeded player, Tathiana Garbin, who continued her impressive Gold Coast run with a 63 62 win over Russia’s Elena Vesnina. The Italian veteran’s week began with an upset of No.4 seed Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
“[Elena] is such a tough player and I was lucky to get through,” said Garbin on Vesnina. “I’m very happy. I’m also excited to be in the semifinals here, that’s great for me so early in the new year.”
Hingis has been impeccable against Garbin in the past, dropping a total of just 10 games in four straight set victories, including one since Hingis’ celebrated 2006 comeback, a 61 62 victory in the second round of Wimbledon last June.
“I’ve played her before and won but she’s playing well here,” Hingis said. “She took out Groenfeld, so I have to take her seriously.”
Two of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s youngest Top 20 players will duke it out in the other semifinal, as the No.2-seeded Safina battles No.5-seeded Shahar Peer.
Safina saved two set points trailing 6-5 in the first set and gained a critical break in the eighth game of the second set during a tight 76(4) 63 win over Australian Samantha Stosur. It was her third win in their three career meetings.
“I’m disappointed to lose but not disappointed with how I played,” Stosur said. “I stepped it up, and played better than the last couple of matches, but needed to raise it just a notch higher. Having two set points on her serve was tough to lose, but she came up with unbelievable serves.”
Peer rallied after dropping a close first set to defeat No.3 seed Ana Ivanovic, 57 64 64, in one minute shy of two hours.
“It was a tough match with very good tennis,” Peer stated. “In the first set, she broke me, then I won four games in a row. I was up in the second and third sets early, which helped me. I served well and timed the ball well today.”
Safina and Peer have played two times, with the Russian dominating each one. She prevailed, 62 61, on the grass courts of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2005 and at Amelia Island last season she won even more easily, 62 60.
“She’s playing so well here — to beat Ivanovic is very tough as she was playing well,” Safina said.
“I’ve played Safina twice and never beaten her; she beat me very easily,” Peer said. “It will be very tough, but I’m excited to be in the semifinals.”
AROUND THE DIAL:
Tim Henman has pulled from the Aussie Open after injuring his knee in practice…Justine Henin-Hardenne on her website says she is pulling from the Aussie Open for personal family reasons…From TennisReporters.com’s Matt Cronin on Tennis Week selling to IMG: “1. A now six-times-a-year publication, Tennis Week can no longer in good conscience call it self a “weekly.” How about “Tennis, Sometimes Bi-annually.”; 2. The publication’s reporters will likely get too much access to IMG clients, prompting other journalists to scream. Monopoly capitalism is alive and well in Cleveland and Rye; 3. Once considered an “insider’s” publication (it hasn’t been that in what, 15 years now), Tennis Week will be pretty to look at, but a mundane read. IMG won’t allow anything controversial to be printed about its clients (but watch out Octagon and SFX players). The debut issue is sure to feature a lengthy discussion of Roger Federer’s favorite restaurants and Maria Sharapova’s favorite designers; 4. The website will continue to be an industry mouthpiece (“Strings Promise to Bounce Balls Back!”), but now will flood the Internet waves with (IMG client) “Sony Ericsson a Boon for WTA Tour” stories; 5. Most of the staff that you see on last month’s masthead will be gone by this time next year. Then, after they strip the publication of any fat, they will try to sell it to Shanghai or Doha, just like they did with Indian Wells.” Also from Cronin: “Justine Henin-Hardenne’s coach tells the Argentine newspaper Ole that the WTA is a “total circus,” a “lie,” and adds that many other players are hypocrites who screw with his player. He essentially calls Kim Clijsters a manipulator and an unprintable swear word. He also says that Leo Clijsters (Kim’s dad) shouldn’t mess with him.”…From The Australian and Merv Cross, who operated Thursday on Mark Philippoussis’ blown-out knee: “The knee looked pretty good,” Cross said after the one-hour operation in Sydney. “I can’t see why Mark cannot come back to the sport and play as well as ever.” Cross said he removed “about one-third of the outside cartilage,” a procedure known as a lateral menisectomy. “The damaged cartilage was about 10mm by three millimetres. This type of injury is quite common among fast bowlers, netballers and rugby league players,” Cross said…Philippoussis will undergo an intensive exercise program over the next four to six weeks. It is understood that the dual Grand Slam singles finalist will undertake his rehabilitation program with Gil Reyes, Andre Agassi’s former fitness trainer, who he had worked with before returning home for the Australian summer.”…With Mark Philippoussis’ injury, now fellow Aussie Chris “Penthouse” Guccione will receive his Australian Open wildcard…Frenchman Gael “Force” Monfils has received an Auckland wildcard after the withdrawal of Mark Philippoussis…Russia will face either India, Spain or the Czech Republic in the Hopman Cup final…Roger Federer is practicing at the Aussie Open site in Melbourne and waiting for the arrival of coach Tony Roche…From Tennis Week on the IMG takeover: “IMG’s acquisition of Tennis Week and tennisweek.com is the result of talks Gene began before he died,” said Tennis Week President Polly Scott, who inherited ownership of the magazine from her husband. “He recognized that both the magazine and the web site had enormous potential for growth and was very excited about those possibilities. Tennis Week has come a long way from its beginnings as an eight-page publication on newsprint, and Gene would be proud to see IMG evolving the publication in order to take the Tennis Week brand to new heights.” — But how would Gene feel about his labor of love no longer being an objective journalistic endeavor that regularly took the industry to take, and transforming into a public relations vehicle for IMG clients?…On the fence for Aussie Open withdrawals: David Nalbandian (knee), Anastasia Myskina (toe), Nadia Petrova (ab muscle pull), Gisela Dulko (leg injury).
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