Del Potro rallies past Mahut

Kvitova wears down Safarova

World number five Juan Martin del Potro began his 2014 season with a win, albeit a scrappy one over Frenchman Nicolas Mahut to advance to the quarterfinals of the Sydney International on Wednesday.

The Sydney warm-up to the Australian Open has proved a graveyard for the seeds this week but the 25-year-old former US Open champion avoided an early flight to Melbourne by coming back to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Other seeds struggled, with third seeded Italian Andreas Seppi 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 Stakhovsky.

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 women’s draw, which has already seen top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki sent packing, lost third seed Sara Errani, last year’s surprise French Open semifinalist, who was upset 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 by Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarterfinals.

One-time Wimbledon semifinalist 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.

Bops-Aisam in semis

Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi progressed to the semifinals of the doubles event but Leander Paes failed to rescue his 2014 season from a poor start as he crashed out in the first round with Czech partner Radek Stepanek.

Bopanna and his Pakistani partner, seeded third, faced stiff resistance from Trat Huey of Philippines and Briton Dominic Inglot before prevailing 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-5), 10-3 in the quarterfinals. 

Paes and Stepanek, seeded second, were ousted 4-6, 4-6 in 65 minutes by the French pair of Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Berdych shines

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 No 7 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.

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