Fifth-seed Ai Sugiyama was sent crashing out in the women’s quarterfinals by teenager Tatiana Golovin of France as the host saw its final player knocked out of the singles competition at the AIG Japan Open on Friday.
Sugiyama appeared in control of the first set, keeping her third-seeded opponent off-balance with her trademark backhand but eventually relinquished her game in a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 loss at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.
The 31st-ranked Japanese player was broken twice in the second set and three times in the final set, including when she double-faulted to give Golovin a 3-0 lead.
Sugiyama, who struggled with a left ankle injury last season and was making her first appearance in two years at this meet, also lost to Golovin 6-3, 6-2 recently in Seoul and was unable to keep her rhythm once again against the 25th-ranked player.
“I moved well in the first set but then I found that I was unable to attack as we went into the second set,” Sugiyama said. “She kept me back (on the baseline) and that’s not my style. I couldn’t get the same rhythm back.”
Sugiyama last won the Japan Open title in 1998 and expectations for her return to grace have been high ever since. The 30-year-old said it was a lack of persistence that was her downfall in the end.
Golovin was pleased with her own performance, especially after regaining her focus from some minor distractions in the first set.
“I was bothered by the (stadium) cover being half-opened because it makes a shadow on the court. I’m a little uncomfortable with that. I might have lost in the past because of this, so I’m proud of myself,” she said.
The 17-year-old slipped down while chasing the ball in the final game of the last set but scrambled to her feet and charged the net, putting a ball past Sugiyama to clinch a meeting with eighth-seed Sania Mirza of India in the semifinals.
In other key matches, top-seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia was ousted by Mirza 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, while fourth-seed Maria Kirilenko of Russia defeated unseeded American Jill Craybas 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 for another semifinal berth.
Nicole Vaidisova, the second seed from the Czech Republic, knocked out Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 for the other semifinal spot and a meeting with Kirilenko.
In the men’s quarterfinals, unseeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, who defeated drug allegation-hit top-seed Mariano Puerta of Argentina in the third round, was sent packing by fifth-seed Mario Ancic of Croatia 6-1, 7-6 (7-4).
Third-seed American Robby Ginepri, who turned 23 the same day, had a birthday to forget as he lost to unseeded German Bjorn Phau in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.
Earlier in the men’s draw, second-seed Radek Stepanek trounced American Kevin Kim 6-1, 6-3 while fourth-seed Taylor Dent of the United States was a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3 winner over Wayne Arthurs of Australia in the third round.
Unseeded South African Wesley Moodie also reached the quarterfinals by downing Luis Horna of Peru 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, while seventh-seed Jarkko Nieminen of Finland bounced out Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5.
TASHKENT (AP) Top-seeded Ekaterina Bychkova rallied to beat fellow Russian Evgeniya Rodina 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 Friday in the quarterfinals of Tashkent Open.
The 443rd-ranked Rodina broke her opponent in the seventh game of the first set to take the lead, but Bychkova, ranked 72nd, won four straight games in the second set and never allowed her 16-year-old opponent back into the match.
Seventh-seeded Maria Elena Camerin of Italy also advanced, knocking out third-seeded Antonella Serra Zanetti 6-3, 6-2, and fifth-seeded Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands beat Katerina Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-2, 7-6 (12-10).
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