Melbourne Park, 7 December 2011 | Matt Trollope

Top seed Greg Jones has coasted into the quarterfinals of the 2012 Australian Open 2012 Play-off, defeating Gavin Van Peperzeel in straight sets in the first match of the day on Court 7.

Jones dissected the young Queenslander’s game in an assured display for a 6-2 6-3 win, returning forcefully, dominating the baseline rallies and barely giving Van Peperzeel a look on the return thanks to a high percentage of powerful first serves.

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Jones said the warm sunny conditions helped him to impose his game on his unseeded opponent.

“It’s a little easier when it’s a day like today. It’s quite hot and conditions were a lot livelier, [making it] a lot easier to hit winners, which kind of suits me,” he said.

“I was happy with the way I hit the ball.”

Jones was indeed dialled-in early, breaking serve in the sixth game of the opening set, and consolidating the break with big backhand and service winners to skip out to a 5-2 lead.

His powerful returns proved devastating and he broke serve again to take the set, capping it off by venturing to the next and punching away a forehand volley.

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The No.1 seed raced ahead 3-0 in the second set and barely allowed Van Peperzeel a point as the unreturnable serves and groundstroke winners continued to flow from his racquet.

He maintained that service break buffer throughout the rest of the set and, despite Van Peperzeel saving a total of three match points and forcing Jones to serve for victory, he made no mistake. Using new balls, Jones dished out three big first serves and then an ace to wrap up the match.

He said that coming into the play-off event as the top seed was both confidence-building and pressure-packed.

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“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for all of us, particularly if you’re one of the higher ranked guys. The way I’m approaching it is that I get an opportunity to try and qualify for the Australian Open twice,” he said.

Jones’ seeding comes after an encouraging 2011 that saw him shave about 100 places off his ranking since May to reach his current mark of No.196. Playing a mixture of Challenger-level and ATP World Tour events, he reached the semifinals and finals of Challengers in South Africa and Uzbekistan respectively, and qualified at ATP 250 events in Los Angeles and Bangkok. He also reached the final round of qualifying at the Australian and US Opens.

He says that while his improved ranking was a positive to come out of the year, he felt it was a season highlighted by missed opportunities.

“It was probably a tiny bit more inconsistent than I would have liked. It was more consistent than the previous year, but hopefully next year if I can play my good weeks every week, I can keep chipping away at that ranking,” he said.

“I feel like I’ve got a great chance next year to try and break into the top 100. I’ve got five tournaments in Australia – two tour events, one Slam and two challengers after that, so I’ve got plenty of opportunities.”

In other matches, Dane Propoggia upset sixth seed James Lemke 6-4 7-6(4), JP Smith knocked out big-serving lefty and fourth seed Chris Guccione 7-5 7-6(3), Michael Look came back from a set down to defeat Isaac Frost 2-6 7-6(4) 6-0 and Casey Dellacqua atoned for yesterday’s loss with a commanding 6-1 6-0 win over eighth seed Emelyn Starr.

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