While some of the players are competing in Sydney and Auckland this week, others are in Melbourne and getting accustomed to the courts in preparation of the Australian Open, which starts Monday, or battling in the qualifications to enter the main draw, qualifications that have seen their first day suspended for a long time due to rain and – gasp! – hail.
Sydney – Surprise, surprise!
If Juan Martín del Potro quite cruised through very tough weather conditions in his first match of the season to defeat Lukasz Kubot 6-4 6-2 and reach the quarter-finals, the same cannot be said for several others, as there have been four surprise losses in the second round, Alex Bogomolov Jr defeating no 5 seed Viktor Troicki 7-6(5) 6-4, no 2 seed John Isner falling to impressive qualifier Bobby Reynolds 6-3 4-6 3-6, qualifier Jarkko Nieminen defeating no 8 seed Radek Stepanek 7-6(5) 5-7 6-1, and Julien Benneteau upsetting fourth-seeded Feliciano López 6-3 6-4.
Matthew Ebden came really close to causing another upset, as he pushed Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis to a three sets before experience prevailed and Baghdatis finally won with great difficulty, 3-6 7-5 7-6(3).
The quarter-finals will be played tonight (Thursday in Sydney), and include three players coming from the qualifications (Nieminen, Reynolds and Denis Istomin). With Nieminen and Reynolds facing each other, we are sure to see a qualifier in the semi-finals of the Apia International!
Furthermore, as the Apia International was the tournament where he made his official comeback, last season, del Potro had many interesting thoughts to share following his victory over Kubot:
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Auckland – Impressive Benoit Paire!
Another qualifier is being very talked about this week, this time at the Heineken Open in Auckland. Frenchman Benoit Paire, known for his crazy and crafty shotmaking, came back from a set down to defeat 4th seed Juan Ignacio Chela 5-7 6-2 6-2 and spectacularly take a quarter-final spot, where he’ll meet a likely exhausted Olivier Rochus, who fought for 3:12 to have the best of Thomaz Bellucci 7-6(6) 5-7 7-6(5). It is finally a breakthrough for the Frenchman, who was more known for his inconsistency in the past. Let’s hope it lasts.
No other surprises, as the first three seeds all made it to the quarter-finals, although Carlos Berlocq gave a merry chase to no 3 seed Fernando Verdasco, who prevailed in two tight sets, 7-5 7-6(3). Philipp Kohlschreiber (8) was also made to work hard in order to defeat wild card Ryan Harrison, 4-6 6-4 6-3.
The quarter-finals of the second Australian warm-up tournament for this week will be played tonight (Thursday local, of course) and I must say that there as well, all the matches should be very interesting to watch.
To be continued…
There will be other parts to this topic, including practices and qualifications in Melbourne and exhibition tournaments. This will all come later today.