Federer rusty in Brisbane opener; Sharapova reaches semis


Roger Federer was rusty in his season-opening match at the Brisbane International, and it had him in a serious sweat.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner held his cool to recover from a set and a break down and beat Australian wild-card entry John Millman 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday.

The weather was reasonably mild for sub-tropical Brisbane, where Federer lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the final last year. It was the hot reception from the No. 153-ranked Millman that troubled him for a while.

"I’m sweating like crazy," Federer said. "Under a lot of pressure. I think I got quite lucky in the second set. He was playing great tennis."

It was slow start for the 33-year-old Swiss star, who had a first-round bye. He wasted four break-point chances in an opening game that lasted seven minutes before Millman held.

Federer was broken in the 10th game, saving three set points before hitting a swinging forehand volley too long to surrender the first set to Millman, who was getting raucous support from a parochial, hometown crowd.


The top-seeded Federer dropped serve to give Millman a 3-1 lead. But he broke back immediately, setting it up with classic one-handed backhand down the line, and saved three break points in the next game to keep it on serve.

That’s when things started to go his way.

"First match of the season, you never know quite what to expect," said Federer, who walked on court with 996 career match wins on the ATP tour — 993 more than Millman. "Credit to him for pushing it."

Federer will face another Australian wildcard in the next round, after James Duckworth beat Jarkko Nieminen 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Third-seeded Milos Raonic had 17 aces and didn’t face a break point in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan to set up a quarterfinal match against Sam Groth of Australia, who beat Lukasz Kubot of Poland 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3).

The 24-year-old Canadian has worked hard to improve his serve, and believes he’s ready to make his breakthrough at the Grand Slam events.

"That’s the biggest goal I’ve set for myself," said Raonic, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals and French Open quarterfinals last year. "I’ve been in a semifinal now, but I can do much better."

The top two players in the women’s draw had contrasting paths to the semifinals, with top-seeded Maria Sharapova beating Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-1, 6-3 and No. 2 Ana Ivanovic struggling to overcome Kaia Kanepi, losing the first five games before coming back to advance 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Sharapova next faces Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who rallied from a set and a break down to beat third-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Ivanovic bounced back from a shaky start, getting the better of a second-set featuring seven breaks of serve and then holding on to beat Kanepi, who let herself down with 10 double-faults.

"I’m really happy to keep my composure," Ivanovic said. "This is a great test, not only physically but mentally."

Ivanovic’s semifinal match will be against Varvara Lepchenko of the United States, who had a 7-5, 7-5 win over Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia.

Canada had a 2-1 win over Italy at the Hopman Cup in Perth, where Eugenie Bouchard beat Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-4 and Vasek Pospisil beat Fabio Fognini 6-0, 6-3 to secure the victory before the Italian pair won the doubles. Canada remained in contention for a spot in the final, depending on the outcome of the night match between the United States and the Czech Republic. Needing a 3-0 victory to advance, the Americans led 2-0 after Serena Williams and John Isner won their singles matches.

In quarterfinals at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki beat Julia Goerges of Germany 6-4, 6-4 and third-seeded Venus Williams had a 6-2, 6-4 win over Elena Vesnina.

Wozniacki’s semifinal opponent will be fourth-seeded Barbora Zhalavova Strycova of the Czech Republic, a 6-4, 7-5 winner over Coco Vandeweghe. Williams, the losing finalist in Auckland last year, will next meet unseeded Lauren Davis of the United States.