Hewitt, Sharapova and Paradorn advance as Nalbandian crashes out
TOKYO: Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt and Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova eased into the final stages of the Japan Open tennis tournament on Thursday while David Nalbandian became the highest-seeded men’s casualty.
Thai star Paradorn Srichapan also came through a tough day, beating Harel Levy of Israel and Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland to make it into the quarter-finals of the rain-disrupted tournament.
Hewitt, the Australian top seed, dropped his second set in two matches but still ran out a comfortable 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-4 winner over Takao Suzuki of Japan. The 2002 Wimbledon champion, currently ranked third in the world, avoided facing any break points at all against the 231st-ranked Suzuki.
“Even though I lost the first set, I still felt like I was a better player throughout the first set,” said Hewitt. “To be able to break his serve early in the second set, I think that was the key, and let him know that his serve’s gonna be broken a few more times in the match.”
Meanwhile defending women’s champion Sharapova breezed past French qualifier Youlia Fedossova 6-3, 6-4 to set up a semi-final against Thai ace Tamarine Tanasugarn. The top-seeded Russian glamour girl, defending a title for the first time, said she was not looking beyond the next match against Tamarine, who advanced when last year’s runner-up Aniko Kapros of Hungary abandoned the match with a knee injury at 6-1, 3-0.
“I definitely hope I can defend my title, that’s for sure, but I have to take one match at a time, just think about my next match and I definitely want to win it, so I’ll be looking forward to that,” Sharapova said.
Second seed Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon finalist, lamented a lack of confidence as he crashed out 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 4-6 to Gilles Muller of Luxembourg. “I didn’t have a very good start (to the tournament), because ... I don’t know, I don’t have much confidence at this moment,” he said.
Thailand’s Paradorn was philosophical about being forced to play two matches in one day and was relieved that his second opponent, Chiudinelli, was forced to abandon the match through injury with the score at 6-3, 4-1.
“It’s something you have to deal with when bad weather is involved in a tournament, so I had to play two maches, but I feel good,” Paradorn said.
“I knew it was going to be tough (against Chiudinelli), because I played him last week in Bangkok. Tonight, he started moving very well and putting a lot of balls in play, but I managed to get on top of him. It’s great not to finish the whole match, because it gives me rest time,” he added.
Paradorn now faces a quarter-final match-up with fifth seed Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic, who beat Brazil’s Ricardo Mello 6-1, 6-2. Hewitt will play French ninth seed Cyril Saulnier, the winner over eighth seed Thomas Johansson of Sweden 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5), while Muller faces American Taylor Dent. Germany’s Bjorn Phau plays Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic in the last quarter-final match-up.
Mashona Washington of the United States will take on Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic in the other women’s semi-final. afp