Timely form ahead of Open

Hobart/Melbourne (Combined reports) – Eleni Daniilidou claimed her first victory in three attempts against Alona Bondarenko to oust the top seed from the Hobart WTA International yesterday. Daniilidou, ranked 42, outmaneuvered the Ukranian 6-3, 6-3 and will now take on Australian Casey Dellacqua in the quarterfinals of the tournament that precedes the Australian Open, the season’s opening grand slam, which begins next week. The Greek tennis player proved too wily for Bondarenko, who found it difficult in the tricky conditions to gain any control from the baseline. «I stayed very tough today, especially the mental part,» Daniilidou said. «I was able to mix it up a bit and play a little bit of slice and come into the net. It was always going to be harder for players who hit it flat.» Second-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva defeated Ioana Paluca Olaru from Romania 6-3 6-2 to book her passage to the quarters. Also in the final eight will be India’s sixth seed Sania Mirza, Russian Elena Vesnina and qualifiers Edina Gallovits of Romania and American Ashley Harkleroad. Mirza was a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 winner over Russian Alla Kudryavtseva and will play Italian Flavia Pennetta, who went through after Australian opponent Jelena Dokic succumbed to an ankle injury after trailing 5-0 in the opening set of the night match. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, Cypriot tennis player Marcos Baghdatis has replaced an ill Roger Federer in the draw at the Kooyong Classic, organizers said yesterday. Federer withdrew from the eight-man invitational event yesterday with a stomach virus, though he said he expected to resume training later this week as he finalized preparations for the Australian Open. Baghdatis lost in four sets to Federer in the 2006 Australian Open final and, despite losing in the first round of the Chennai Open last week, he said making the final of the doubles with France’s Marc Gicquel had at least given him some match practice. «I didn’t play too well in Chennai last week, though I played good in the doubles. I had some matches OK,» Baghdatis told a news conference. «No, I’m feeling really good and I’m looking forward to playing some matches with the guys and having some fun and getting ready for the Open.» The tournament, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2008, guarantees players three matches against a field stacked with top 10 players before the Australian Open. World No 4 Nikolay Davydenko, who has replaced Tommy Haas in the tournament, will meet Baghdatis in today’s first match. (AFP, Reuters)