Dudi Sela’s hopes of reaching a first ATP Tour semifinal in almost two years were dashed on Friday following a 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-0 loss to Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the quarterfinals of the Chennai Open in India.
Sela, ranked No. 73 in the world, was playing in his first ATP Tour quarterfinal since reaching the last eight in Newport, Rhode Island in July 2012 and had momentum on his side after claiming the second set, only to fail to win a single game in the decisive set against Roger-Vasselin (52).
The Israeli’s last appearance in an ATP semifinal was in Delray Beach, Florida in February 2012.
Shahar Pe’er (77) faces Tsvetana Pironkova (108) in the final qualifying round of the Sydney International on Sunday after beating Katarzyna Piter (119) of Poland 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 in the second round of qualifying on Saturday.
Julia Glushko (91) was forced to retire while trailing 6-3, 2-0 in her first round match in the Sydney qualifiers against Nastassja Burnett (167) due to pain in her knee.
Glushko will rest this week in the hope of being fit for the Australian Open, which gets underway next Monday.
Elsewhere, Rafa Nadal began his year in perfect fashion with victory over Gael Monfils in the Qatar Open in Doha on Saturday.
The Spanish world number one put down an ominous marker for the forthcoming Australian Open as he claimed his 61st career title with a 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2 win over the flamboyant Frenchman in the desert city.
Victory took Nadal past Andre Agassi into eighth spot on the all-time list of ATP Tour title winners and helped him extend his lead at the top of the rankings over Novak Djokovic who opted not to play this week.
Monfils’s two career wins over Nadal had both come in Doha, in 2009 and 2012, but apart from the second set he was out-muscled by the Spaniard who moved smoothly on the hard court and was far too rugged.
Also Saturday, Serena Williams powered to a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka at the Brisbane International.
The American won the battle between the world’s top two players to pick up her 58th career title.
In the men’s draw, Roger Federer will be chasing a 19th win over home favorite Lleyton Hewitt when the two 32-year-olds renew their friendly rivalry in Sunday’s final.
Both players needed three sets to reach the final with top seed Federer beating Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3 and Hewitt downing Japan’s Kei Nishikori 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in stifling conditions.
The women’s final lacked the intensity of Williams’ victory over Maria Sharapova on Friday but lived up to its promise in a pulsating second set.
The world No. 1’s serve was far more consistent than in her previous match and she did not face a break point in taking the first set.
Azarenka broke Williams twice to take a 4-2 lead in the second set but lost her own serve to restore parity.
In the crucial 11th game, Williams hit a vicious backhand down the line to secure her third break of the set and then served out for victory.Reuters contributed to this report