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Kvitova enters Sydney semis; Seppi derails Tsitsipas
January 11, 2019
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Sydney: Petra Kvitova sent defending champion Angelique Kerber packing from the rain-affected Sydney International Thursday to book a semi-final spot and get an edge over her rival heading into the Australian Open next week.

It was always going to be a tight match with the pair tied 6-6 in 12 previous meetings.

Play was suspended early in the first set due to rain. They returned several hours later but the drizzle soon began falling again and it was back to the locker room for the two tournament drawcards.

They eventually resumed at 10:30pm and Czech fifth seed Kvitova, who won the title in 2015, took charge, quickly racing through the first set to put the German world number two on the back foot.

Kvitova kept the pressure on and got a crucial break in game four of the second set and there was no way back for Kerber who meekly surrendered 6-4, 6-1.

“The weather has not been great and it’s not easy to wait in the locker room, but I was glad I could come back out and play so well,” Kvitova said after reaching the semi-finals in Sydney for a fourth time.

Her reward is a clash with Belarusian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who beat Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky -- on the comeback trail after a 14-month winless spell -- 6-3, 6-3.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty followed up her giant-killing wins over world number one Simona Halep and former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko by easily accounting for 10th seeded Belgian Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3.

The 22-year-old is now on a six-match win streak, dating back to her career’s biggest title at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.

“Nice and solid today, I was pretty happy at the way I was able to come out and play,” said Barty, ranked 15 in the world.

She will play seventh seed Kiki Bertens who blasted past Yulia Putintseva 6-2, 6-2 for a place in the final.

Seppi rallies to win

In the men’s draw, veteran Andreas Seppi derailed top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas’ title hopes.

Seppi, 14 years older than his 20-year-old Greek opponent, has only won three ATP titles in his career, but called on all his experience as he battled back for a gutsy 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win.

Defeat was a blow for world No.15 Tsitsipas’ preparations for the opening Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne next week.

Seppi will now play third seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who needed to fight hard to beat Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7/1). In other quarter-final action, fifth seeded teenager Alex De Minaur continued his strong start to the season with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over fellow Australian Jordan Thompson.

Cilic’s Kooyong cruise

Last year’s Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic rounded off his preparations for this year’s edition in style Thursday, winning his second match in as many days at the Kooyong Classic.

With the first Grand Slam of the season starting on Monday, every opportunity is important for the Croatian, who went down in a battle to Roger Federer in the Melbourne Park decider in 2018.

The world number seven beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-4, backing up his three-set victory a day before over world No. 6 Kevin Anderson.

Earlier, American Jack Sock lost to fast-rising Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 3-6, 10-7 after a final set played as a 10-point tiebreak -- the format which will be used at the Australian Open from Monday.

Under the rules, the first player to win at least 10 points by a two-point margin takes the match.

Ahead of the Australian Open last year, Sock was at a career-high eighth in the world rankings, but after a horror season he has plunged outside the top 100 and is desperate to turn it around.

His form slump has been dramatic. He played 31 singles matches in 2018, winning a mere nine.

Shapovalov, 19, made up for lost time after losing in the first round at Auckland this week and then crossing the Tasman to squeeze into the Kooyong draw as a late entry.

Kohlschreiber in semis

Evergreen Philipp Kohlschreiber rolled back the years to storm into the Auckland Classic semi-finals Thursday with a straight-sets demolition of second seed Fabio Fognini.

The 35-year-old German tore apart the lacklustre Italian 6-3, 6-1 to remain in the reckoning at a tournament where he claimed the title way in back in 2008.

Currently ranked 34th in the world, Kohlschreiber has not dropped a set on his way to a final four showdown with American Tennys Sandgren, who beat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).

The other semi-final pits Briton Cameron Norrie -- a victor over American Tyler Fritz -- against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.

Agence France-Presse

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