Brisbane, Australia (4E Sports) – Top seed and defending champion Andy Murray survived a scare in his first match of the year, needing over two hours to dismiss No. 199 Australian qualifier John Millman, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3, Thursday and reach the quarterfinal of the Brisbane International at Pat Rafter Arena.
After a strong start, Murray found himself down 3-5 but rallied to tie the second set. However, Millman finished strong to clinch the set and force a decider.
In the third, Murray will not be denied as he converted his only break point to finish the match and advance against Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin, who beat World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, 7-5, 7-5.
The 26-year-old Istomin won 82 per cent of points behind his first serve and leaned on three of his 12 break points to beat home favorite Hewitt in one hour and 45 minutes.
“I wasn’t too disappointed with the way I played tonight either, so it was a good first match for me. For a first match of the year, that was a perfect match in many ways to go through some tough moments, a lot of long rallies, close games, and important points,” Murray said.
Murray had a career-best 2012, winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and the singles gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics.
In other matches, Grigor Dimitrov eliminated second seed and World No. 13 Milos Raonic,
6-3, 6-4, to seal a quarterfinal clash with 7th seeded Austrian Jurgen Melzer, who defeated Belgian David Goffin 6-4, 7-6(4).
On the women’s side, No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and No. 3 Serena Williams hurdled their respective rivals to seal their semifinal showdown.
Azarenka crushed Ksenia Pervak, 6-1, 6-0, in 69 minutes while Williams defeated Sloane Stephens, 6-4, 6-3.
Azarenka and Williams will be playing for the 13th time with the latter leading the head-to-head series, 11-1.
In Shenzhen, China, Li Na and Peng Shuai emerged victorious in the quarterfinal round of the Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open, setting up a blockbuster showdown between two legends of Chinese tennis.
The top-seeded Li never trailed in a routine 6-3, 6-3 defeat of eighth-seeded Bojana Jovanovski while the 6th seed Peng pulled out a hard-earned 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 triumph.
In Auckland, New Zealand, top seed Agnieszka Radwanska cruised into the semifinal round with an easy 6-3, 6-3 win over Elena Vesnina in the ASB Classic.
In the last four, Radwanska will face Jamie Hampton, who beat Kiki Bertens in three sets, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
The other semifinal pits Mona Barthel against 2010 champion and third seed Yanina Wickmayer.
In other men’s events, top seed David Ferrer dispatched Paolo Lorenzi, 6-3, 6-0, in the quarterfinal of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha.
In the semifinal, Ferrer will take on 2010 champion Nikolay Davydenko, who beat Simone Bolelli, 6-1, 6-1, in just 50 minutes.
Also, world No. 10 Richard Gasquet advanced to the semifinal, dismissing Lukas Lacko 6-1, 6-3. He will next face Daniel Brands, who beat France’s Gael Monfils 6-1, 7-5.
Meanwhile, world No. 6 Tomas Berdych made a strong season debut, crushing Somdev Devvarman, 6-3, 6-1, in the second round of the Aircel Chennai Open.
Berdych will next play Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarterfinal. Agut beat Matthias Bachinger 7-6(4), 6-3.
Two-time former champion Marin Cilic reached the quarterfinal as he rallied from a set down to defeat Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
For a place in the semi-finals, Cilic will face fifth-seeded Benoit Paire, who dismissed Israel’s Dudi Sela, 6-1, 6-0 in just 40 minutes.