Tennis: Kuznetsova's demolition display

By Dylan Cleaver

Top seed Sabine Lisicki made hard work of her match against compatriot Mona Barthel. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Top seed Sabine Lisicki made hard work of her match against compatriot Mona Barthel. Photo / Brett Phibbs

If you're looking for an early favourite, it's hard to go past Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The Russian third seed was the most impressive player on centre court during a day where the underdog struck back, casting aside promising American Christina McHale in two dismissive 6-1 6-1 sets.

If the first two days of the ASB Classic were notable for the smooth passage of the seeds, then day three proved a brutal wake-up call.

Peng Shuai (2), Julia Goerges (5), Roberta Vinci (6) and Monica Niculescu (8) were all cast aside, meaning half the seeds had disappeared before the night session had started.

There was no danger that Kuznetsova, the former world No 2, would go the same way. With a terrific returning performance allied to booming groundstrokes, she demolished a player who had beaten her in their past two outings.

She faces a tricky quarter-final tonight against either Yanina Wickmayer or Sara Errani, depending on who prevailed in the final second-round match on centre court last night.

Another who survived was top-seed Sabine Lisicki, but only after a 90-minute rain delay and an error-strewn three-set performance against compatriot Mona Barthel. The fact she pulled out of her doubles match later in the day suggests all is not perfect in the No 15-ranked player's world.

If Kuznetsova's win was the most impressive and Lisicki's the most laboured, then Lucie Hradecka's dismantling of Peng was the most surprising.

The second seed is renowned for her fighting qualities and her formidable defence but, playing with bandaged leg, she folded tamely to the Czech in little more than an hour. With two games already moved from centre to the outer courts, it allowed the night session to start close to its scheduled time for the first time this week.

With China's Zheng Jie humbling Niculescu 6-0 6-2 to set up a match against Hradecka today, it means there will be at least one unseeded player in the semifinals

Fourth seed Flavia Pennetta played an early match on the outer courts, but it didn't affect her form or damage her ego. She beat Briton Elena Baltacha in straight sets.

"I never play on that court, but it's a nice court and everything was fine. It doesn't matter if you play centre court or another court. You need just one court."

She will face Elena Vesnina in today's quarter-finals. The Russian had the honour of being the first player to knock out a seed when she was far too strong for Italian Roberta Vinci.

"It's going to be really tough tomorrow, but I will try my best," Pennetta said. "Here it's rain, wind ... everything."

The rain has mainly stayed away to the relief of organisers. Some of the forecasts have been grim enough to suggest there would be more off than on, but it hasn't happened ... yet.

The big wet has caused some interruption though, with top seed Sabine Lisicki's plan to head to Piha Beach so far thwarted.

"They tell me it's got black sand. I haven't seen that before," she said.

Before life's a beach, she'll have to contend with another German, Angelique Kerber, who was mighty impressive in dealing to fifth-seed Julia Goerges in straight sets.

"I feel very good," Kerber said. "It was a tough match [to prepare for] because I have known her for such a long time. We've practised together since we were children."

It wasn't entirely unpredictable. While Kerber was pushed hard by Marina Erakovic on Tuesday night, there was nothing like the physical toll that an ill Goerges had to withstand in her victory over defending champion Greta Arn.

- NZ Herald

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