Top seed Rainer Schuettler of Germany advanced to the semifinals of the Japan Open at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum on Friday with a routine 6-3, 6-3 victory over Australian Scott Draper.

News photoMaria Sharapova of Russia returns a shot to Claudine Schaul of Luxembourg in their quarterfinal match at the Japan Open at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum.

However, the relief that accompanies any major tournament when its top seeds advance to the later stages of the event, will be tinged, by the disappointment that big-hitting Australian fifth seed Mark Philippoussis was forced to retire from his quarterfinal match with Frenchman Cyril Saulnier with a neck injury while trailing 5-2 in the first set.

Philippoussis, otherwise known as the ‘Scud’ for the ferocity of his serves, looked decidedly off-color from the outset and after being broken in the fifth game of the match called for the trainer to attend to his injured neck. He only lasted two more games, walking up to the net and shaking the hand of his opponent to concede the match.

Philippoussis explained that the injury was caused by sleeping awkwardly.

“I woke up, went to the bathroom and ended up sleeping on my stomach and I woke up the wrong way,” he said. “I had my practice and it hurt. It wasn’t too bad. I went out, played my match and the more I served, the worse it got.”

Earlier, Rainer Schuettler got the ball rolling on center court with his thrashing of Draper in a little over an hour.

“Sometimes I can be too defensive in my play,” said Schuettler. “My coach reminded me that I needed to be aggressive from the outset against Draper because he has a good serve and comes to the net a lot. I was able to put early pressure on him which was key to winning the match.”

In the other half of the draw, crowd favorite Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand had to struggle against up-and-coming South Korean Lee Hyung Taik, eventually prevailing 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in over two hours.

Lee dominated most of the rallies, while Paradorn relied on his big serve to keep him in the match, particularly in the second set.

The turning point in the match came at 5-5 in the tie-breaker when Lee blew an easy forehand wide that would have set up match point. Paradorn made full use of the good fortune he has enjoyed in tie-breakers this tournament — winning all four to date — closing out the tie-breaker and running away with the final set.

Paradorn next plays second seed Sebastien Grosjean for a place in the final, after the Frenchman beat Jan-Michael Gambill 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Among the women, fast-rising Maria Sharapova moved a step closer to her first WTA Tour title with a hard-earned 7-5, 7-6 (7-1) win over Claudine Schaul of Luxembourg.

The 16-year-old Russian will face Zheng Jie in the semifinals after the Chinese player beat compatriot Yan Zi 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

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