Andy Murray and Anne Keothavong were continents apart yesterday but the two British No 1s found themselves on the same path as they reached the quarter-finals of their first tournaments of the season. Murray, the defending champion, beat Germany's Philipp Petzschner 6-2, 6-4 at the Qatar Open in Doha, while Keothavong knocked out the No 8 seed, Carla Suarez Navarro, a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros last year, in the second round of the Auckland Classic in New Zealand.
Having enjoyed the best season of her career in 2008, Keothavong has started the new campaign in similar fashion. Overnight she was due to play the Japanese qualifier, Ayumi Morita, for a place in the semi-finals, which is the furthest the Briton has ever gone on the main tour.
Already at a career-high No 60 in the world rankings, Keothavong will climb further next week and is assured of a place in the main draw of the Australian Open for the first time. The season's first Grand Slam tournament begins in Melbourne in 11 days' time.
Keothavong returned serve impressively and broke Suarez Navarro, the world No 46, six times on her way to victory in an hour and 24 minutes. "I felt I was the more aggressive player today in tricky conditions," Keothavong told her new website (AnneKeothavong.co.uk). "The wind picked up towards the end of the first set and there were several breaks of serve in the second set."
Murray reached his quarter-final with the minimum of fuss. Petzschner, the world No 66, won only seven out of 43 points on Murray's serve and did not have a single break point. Murray, who served six aces, occasionally came under pressure from the German's powerful forehand but never looked in serious trouble. He took the first set after breaking serve in the third and seventh games and served out for the match after breaking Petzschner to love in the third game of the second.
In the quarter-finals Murray will face a familiar opponent in the Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky. The world No 4 beat Stakhovsky to win the US Open junior title in 2004 and also got the better of him in Odessa three years ago in a Davis Cup tie. In the semi-finals Murray is seeded to meet Roger Federer, who maintained his progress with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Andreas Seppi. Rafael Nadal, who heads the other half of the draw, beat Slovakia's Karol Beck for the loss of only three games.
One opponent Murray will not have to face in Melbourne is Nikolay Davydenko. The world No 5 yesterday pulled out of the Australian Open because of a heel injury.
In Brisbane, Jamie Murray and his new partner, Serbia's Dusan Vemic, were unable to build on their opening victory and were beaten 6-3, 6-4 by the American Travis Parrott and the Slovakian Filip Polasek.