Australia's last hope at the Sydney International tennis has made a gallant exit from the tournament.
Wildcard Matthew Ebden lost a third-set tiebreaker against former champion and Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.
Baghdatis battled back from dropping the first set to prevail 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) after two hours and 12 minutes in hot and windy conditions to book a last-eight showdown with top seed Juan Martin Del Potro in tomorrow's quarter-finals.
After enjoying a first-round bye, Del Potro scored a routine 6-4, 6-2 win over Lukasz Kubot at Sydney Olympic Park on Wednesday.
Argentina's 2009 US Open champion, ranked number 11 as opposed to number 485 this time last year when he returned in Sydney from wrist surgery, was delighted to win his belated first match of the year.
Despite the tournament commencing on Sunday, del Potro had to wait four days for a start and was relieved to advance.
"It was really tough conditions," he said.
"But I just was really focused on my serve basically in the first set and then tried to take a little opportunity because it was really difficult to play long rallies, to feel the ball like I wanted.
"It was really tough, but finally I won anyway.
"I did well today; tomorrow I need to play better because my opponent will be really tough as well."
Second seed John Isner became the first big casualty from the men's draw with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 second-round loss to fellow American Bobby Reynolds.
After progressing through the qualifying draw, Isner's conqueror Reynolds faces Finnish left-hander Jarko Nieminen, who ousted eighth-seeded Czech Radek Stepanek 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 6-1.
French third seed Richard Gasquet outclassed Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-1 and will meet Uzbek qualifier Denis Istomin, a 6-2, 6-1 victor over American Ryan Sweeting.
Defending champion Li Na is the first player through to the women's semi-finals after beating Lucie Safarova in straight sets.
After cruising through the first set, China's world number five was forced to a tiebreaker by her Czech opponent in the second but eventually wrapped up the quarter-final clash 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
Last year's French Open champion and Australian Open finalist Li will now meet the winner of Wednesday night's centre court clash between world number two Petra Kvitova and Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova.
Third seed Victoria Azarenka will take on France's Marion Bartoli later on Wednesday, while world number one Caroline Wozniacki battles Poland's seventh-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the last women's quarter-final match.
AAPTags: sport, tennis, sydney-2000, nsw, australia First posted January 11, 2012 17:08:20