FORMER US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro became the highest seed so far to be dumped out of the Australian Open when he was stunned 6-3, 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 6-3 yesterday by France’s Jeremy Chardy – a development which would appear to remove a significant obstacle from Andy Murray’s route towards an expected semi-final against Roger Federer.
The sixth-seeded Argentine, the only player outside of the ‘Big Four’ of men’s tennis to have won a grand slam in the last eight years, had come into the match in ominous form, conceding only 13 games to his first two opponents, the lowest in the men’s draw.
But after three hours and 45 minutes it was the unfancied Chardy, a 36th-ranked clay court specialist with a solitary ATP title, who was toasting the finest win of his career. The Frenchman raced into a two-set lead but looked to have blown his chance when the Argentine clawed back level. However, Chardy found a second wind to complete the upset. He will now face Andrea Seppi, with a potential quarter-final clash with Murray on the horizon.
“In the end, when he had the chance to break me, he did,” said Del Potro. “I think that was the key. In the end, he played better in the important moments, and he took the chance to win the match.”
On a good day for France, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga set up a mouthwatering all-Gallic last-16 clash with solid wins.
Bernard Tomic, the last Australian singles player standing, gave another demonstration of his burgeoning talent, but it was not enough as world No.2 Roger Federer tamed the 20-year-old 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1.
Women’s world No.1 Victoria Azarenka and five-time champion Serena Williams took contrasting paths to the last 16. Azarenka came through an epic struggle with injury-stricken Jamie Hampton 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, while Williams had a far easier time of it, outclassing Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-3. Next up for the top seed and defending champion is a meeting with Elena Vesnina, while Williams will next face Maria Kirilenko. Svetlana Kuznetsova is also through to play former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki.