Tennis: Seeds' fall gives hope to minnows

By Michael Brown

Unfancied competitors can take courage from the ousting of five of the ASB Classic's eight top-ranked players.

Johanna Larsson of Sweden (above) bundled out second-seed Julia Goerges in just 2 hours yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Johanna Larsson of Sweden (above) bundled out second-seed Julia Goerges in just 2 hours yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The ASB Classic is not exactly wide open but there is a chance for an unfancied player to take the title, with five of the eight seeds knocked out before today's quarter-finals.

Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and third seed Yanina Wickmayer will be favoured to meet in Saturday's final, being on opposite sides of the draw, but favouritism hasn't counted for much this week.

Two more seeds were bundled out yesterday, with second seed Julia Goerges ousted by Sweden's Johanna Larsson 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours 32 minutes and sixth seed Yaroslava Shvedova going down to Russia's Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-3.

In contrast, Wickmayer had an easy time of it against Romani Oprandi, winning 6-3, 6-0, and eighth seed Mona Barthel went through courtesy of a 7-6, 6-2 win over two-time champion Eleni Daniilidou. Radwanska was due on court for her second-round match last night.

Larsson, who had not won a match in Australasia before, said lower-ranked players often sensed a chance when some of the big guns had been silenced, especially so early in the season.

"It's also tough to come here as the top seeds because you have all the pressure on you," the world No73 said. "We are coming out from an off-season where we had quite a long break. Most players had a few weeks' holiday. I had four weeks off. For the top players, they don't really know where their level is. Maybe they are still in the off-season a little bit before the Australian Open but it's definitely an opportunity for me."

Barthel, whom Larsson plays in today's quarter-final, and Wickmayer might have something to say about that. Wickmayer, in particular, has looked impressive in her two outings and took only 60 minutes to beat Oprandi yesterday.

She dished up four double faults in her opening two service games but soon found her rhythm with her big groundstrokes.

The world No23 has done well in Auckland before, having won in 2010 and been runner-up in 2011, and feels good about her chances this year.

"I feel pretty confident playing my game," she said. "I'm playing much more aggressively than I was at the end of last year so I'm really happy about that. It's a good way to start the year, having two matches already.

"I think last year was a bit of a difficult start for me. I came back from a big injury and wasn't sure how things were going to turn out and if I could play so I think this year is different."

Wickmayer will tackle fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, who beat Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 6-2 in her second-round match.

- APNZ

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