At the Medibank International in Sydney, former No. 1 Kim Clijsters is stamping “favorite” next to her name on next week’s Australian Open draw. While many of the top players look shaky entering Melbourne, on Wednesday the No. 3-seeded Belgian rolled past No. 7 Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-2.
In other quarterfinal results No. 8 Li Na came from a set down to oust former world No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3, Serb Bojana Jovanovski surprised veteran Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-1, and ground-pounding Russian Alisa Kleybanova outlasted Dominika Cibulkova in three sets. The semis line up is Na vs. Jovanovski, and Kleybanova vs. Clijsters.
On the men’s side Wednesday in Sydney the No. 1-seeded American Sam Querrey saw his chance to get some matched under his belt go “poof” when he was upset by the Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov in straights. Former US Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro’s run also came to an end in the second round, losing in straights to Florian Mayer.
“Everything is tough after long, long time,” Del Potro said after an error-strewn effort. “But if I’m here it’s because I want to play. I want to try again. That’s what I’m thinking every day. I don’t want to feel bad, you know. Last year was very bad year for me, and now I’m okay. I am in good shape…I lost, but I’m in the competition again.”
At the Heineken Open in Auckland, No. 3 John Isner and No. 6 David Nalbandian set up a tasty quarterfinal meeting with wins on Wednesday. Isner survived Robin Haase of the Netherlands in three, and Nalbandian eased past Philipp Petzschner.
“I played very good tennis today, it was much better than yesterday and it will give me confidence,” Nalbandian said.
Top-seeded David Ferrer struggled past German Tobias Kamke in three, and No. 2 Nicolas Almagro also moved into the quarters.
In Hobart the women’s storylines are all over the place — top players crashing, and rain, rain everywhere.
Earlier in the week former No. 1 Dinara Safina won one (1) game off top-seeded Marion Bartoli, getting shellacked 6-0, 6-1.
U.S. fortunes went both ways — America’s (soon to be playing Challengers?) sweetheart Melanie Oudin lost in the first round, while Bethanie Mattek-Sands, hot off leading the U.S. to the Hopman Cup title, upset No. 2 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2 ret. (right hip flexor strain).
All Wednesday matches in Hobart were postponed by rain, and the tournament could be in big trouble looking at the forecasts. Most players are waiting to play second-round matches coming up on Thursday, and forecasters are saying rain for AT LEAST the next two days. Players can look forward to two-a-days in Hobart, with the final possibly extending into the Australian Open.
GETTING THE KINKS OUT
Two players on the sidelines are trying to figure out how to tweak their games in time for the Australian Open — both dealing with equipment issues. Maria Sharapova switched from her long-time Prince racquet to a multi-million sponsorship with HEAD, but last week lost early in her only WTA warm-up event. This week world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki debuted her cash-grab switch to Yonex, losing her opening-round match. Wozniacki vaulted to No. 1 behind her long-time association with her Babolat racquet. Before the event, Wozniacki and her Yonex won one game off Vera Zvonareva in an exhibition match.
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