Shock Stosur defeat leaves home hopes extinguished

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The Independent Online

Hopes of a home player winning a singles title at the Australian Open for the first time in 33 years were ended by a European double-whammy in Rod Laver Arena last night. Although 18-year-old Bernard Tomic was far from disgraced in losing 6-2 7-5 6-3 to Rafael Nadal, Sam Stosur's 7-6 6-3 defeat to Petra Kvitova was a disappointment on a day when a record crowd of 77,121 flocked to Melbourne Park.

The last Australian to win a singles title here was Chris O'Neil in 1978, the last man to triumph was Mark Edmondson in 1976. There had been hopes that the wait might be ended by 26-year-old Stosur, who stands at No 6 in the world rankings and enjoyed her best season last year when she reached the final of the French Open. Kvitova had never gone beyond the second round here, though the 20-year-old Czech proved her quality when she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last summer.

The match turned on the first-set tie-break, which Kvitova won 7-5 with a crunching forehand winner from the baseline. Stosur's confidence appeared to wane in the second set as Kvitova secured victory after an hour and 35 minutes. The world No 28, unbeaten this year having won the title in Brisbane a fortnight ago, now meets Italy's Flavia Pennetta.

"I don't really know how I lost it," Stosur said. "I felt like I started playing a bit better and was probably on top of her and then all of a sudden it was gone and I was a set down. She played extremely well pretty much the whole way through. I think it was a match of a point here and a point there and she got the ones that really mattered. It's a tough loss."

Tomic never looked overawed and kept his composure even after Nadal broke him in the third game. The Queenslander played superbly at the start of the second set and raced into a 4-0 lead, but Nadal refused to be knocked out of his stride and quickly restored his authority by attacking the net more often.

Tomic, however, continued to play his shots and impressed with both his ball-striking and his tactical play, even if he wasted some points with his poor shot selection.

Nadal, who applauded his opponent off the court, now plays Croatia's Marin Cilic, who won a four-and-a-half-hour thriller against last year's marathon man from Wimbledon, the American John Isner. There were 58 aces in the match as Cilic won 4-6 6-26-7 7-6 9-7.

The biggest surprise of the day was provided by Milos Raonic, a 20-year-old Canadian qualifier ranked No 152 in the world, who beat Mikhail Youzhny, the world No 10, 6-4 7-5 4-6 6-4. Raonic, who has a serve befitting a man who stands 6ft 5in tall and weighs nearly 15st, was born in Montenegro and moved to Canada when he was three. He does not lack confidence. "I'm not really shocked," Raonic said. "When I saw who I was playing next, I knew I had a chance."

Kim Clijsters, the favourite for the women's title, has yet to drop a set, although her 7-6 6-3 victory over France's Alize Cornet was less than emphatic. "You never play a whole tournament playing your best tennis," Clijsters said. "You also have to work for it and I think that's what I had to do today."

Vera Zvonareva, who lost in two Grand Slam finals last year, was more impressive in her 6-3 7-6 win over Lucie Safarova. "If you compare today's match to my first match, I think I was playing a different level already," the Russian said.