Three Aussies exit Brisbane
Radek Stepanek defeated Australia's Matthew Ebden at the Brisbane International on Tuesday.
He might have a love affair with Brisbane but relations could become strained after Radek Stepanek defeated Australia’s Matthew Ebden on Tuesday.
The wily Czech extended his amazing record at the Brisbane International to 13-2 with the 6-4 3-6 6-3 first-round win but many were cheering for his opponent – Australian No.2 Ebden.
Indeed, there was not much for local fans to cheer about on Tuesday after Ebden joined compatriots Ben Mitchell and John Millman on the day three casualty list.
World No.28 Stepanek, 33, might never appear on a Brisbane International promotional poster but the crafty veteran always seems to put on a star turn at the combined ATP-WTA event.
He won the inaugural 2009 men’s final before making the 2010 decider and reaching the semi-finals last year.
His awkward style has not stopped Stepanek endearing himself with the Brisbane crowd, winning them over ever since celebrating the 2009 title with a spot of breakdancing.
But there were mixed emotions on Tuesday as Stepanek held out world No.86 Ebden in a match lasting more than two hours.
South African-born Ebden, 24, bounced back from losing a tight first set by racing to a 3-0 lead in the second before clinching it in 41 minutes.
However, he was broken in his first service game of the third.
Ebden fought hard to stay alive as sixth seed Stepanek blew three match points in the eighth game.
But Stepanek – the oldest player in the world top 50 – was not to be denied.
It was still an encouraging display by Ebden, who began 2011 ranked 196th but climbed to a career-high No.79 after reaching the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters.
The Perth-based Ebden will turn his attention to the Sydney International.
Other Australian hopes Millman and Mitchell also lost in the first round on Tuesday.
Wildcard Mitchell was downed 6-4 6-2 by Japanese qualifier Tatsuma Ito while qualifier Millman lost to Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo 6-3 6-3.
Men’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori had a scare before overcoming German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 3-6 6-1 6-4 in their first round clash.
In the women’s draw, second seed Andrea Petkovic cruised into the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-0 win over Czech opponent Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
Former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone – the third seed – is also through after downing Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva 6-4 6-4 in the second round.