• The Associated Press

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Top-seeded Mariano Puerta of Argentina was upset by unseeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-2, 6-7 (11-13), 7-5 Thursday in third round of the Japan Open, a day after denying allegations of doping.

The French sports newspaper L’Equipe reported Wednesday that Puerta tested positive for the banned drug etilefrine following his four-set loss to Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the French Open final and faces a possible life ban for a second doping offense.

Puerta served a nine-month suspension after testing positive for clenbuterol in February 2003 at an ATP tournament in Chile.

“I have not taken any illegal substances as reported,” Puerta said after Thursday’s loss. “I was suspended two years ago and would never do anything like that again.”

Puerta also denied previous reports that he had a cold during the French Open and took cold medicine before Roland Garros. He did say he saw a doctor and took an anti-inflammatory between the semifinals and the finals.

He looked off his game in the first set against Baghdatis and was broken twice, before fighting off three match points in the second set. However, Baghdatis closed out the match by breaking in the final game of the third set, and will face Croatia’s Mario Ancic in the quarterfinals.

Puerta did not blame the allegations for his defeat.

“I played as well as I could,” Puerta said. “He just played better.”

Ancic, who rebounded from a shaky first set to get past American Jan-Michael Gambill 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 earlier in the day, defeated France’s Cyril Saulnier 6-2, 6-1 in the third round. Also, third-seeded American Robby Ginepri defeated Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 6-4 to reach the quarters, and will face Bjorn Phau after the German cruised past Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark 6-1, 6-2.

In second-round matches, second-seeded Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic beat compatriot Jiri Vanek 7-5, 6-4; fourth-seeded American Taylor Dent defeated Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov 6-3, 7-6 (7-3); No. 7 seed Jarkko Nieminen of Finland beat Germany’s Rainer Schuettler 6-1, 6-1; Peru’s Luis Horna edged Roko Karanusic of Croatia 6-2, 7-5; and Australian Wayne Arthurs rallied to beat Juan Monaco of Argentina, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

In women’s play, top-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia downed Israel’s Shahar Peer 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the quarterfinals. She will face India’s Sania Mirza, who defeated Japan’s Aiko Nakamura 6-1, 6-1.

Other third-round winners included second-seeded Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, No. 3 Tatiana Golovin of France, No. 4 Maria Kirilenko of Russia and Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson.

Sugiyama advances into quarterfinals

Kyodo News

Ai Sugiyama stormed into the quarterfinals with a gritty victory over France’s Camille Pin in an otherwise disappointing day for the hosts at the Japan Open on Thursday.

Fifth-seed Sugiyama looked in trouble before finding her rhythm to send off her 109th-ranked opponent 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 2 hours, 10 minutes in a second-round match at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.

Sugiyama led the first set 1-0 and 2-1 before the Frenchwoman broke back to 2-2. It looked to be going downhill from there until the 31st-ranked player turned the tide and took control in the second set en route to victory.

“I was letting her establish the pace with slow and deep balls early on and didn’t realize I’d gotten trapped at her pace,” Sugiyama said.

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