Outclassed Erakovic exits with little fight

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 03/01/2013

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Marina Erakovic made a deflating, passive exit from the ASB Classic yesterday.

In front of her home crowd, the New Zealand No 1 wanted more than a sluggish 6-1 7-6 (7-5) defeat to impressive but inexperienced American Jamie Hampton.

Other than a fleeting second set fightback, where she saved three match points and sparked hopes of a prolonged revival, Erakovic was outclassed by Hampton, ranked four places below her at 70th in the world. "I had a lot of chances through that second set.

"It definitely hurts," Erakovic conceded after her first tournament in three months.

It was a case of new year, same problems for the Kiwi hopeful.

There were promising signs - optimism even - after her first win at the Auckland tournament since 2009. In her first-round victory, Erakovic displayed a refreshing willingness to attack with aggression. That, however, quickly deserted her and she returned to type on centre court.

On a number of occasions, Erakovic was caught flatfooted; her backhand failed to fire; a weak, inconsistent first serve allowed Hampton to hit 21 clean winners; but slow and limited foot movement was the major issue.

"Today was more to do with the feet than anything else," Erakovic said. "It was slow and I couldn't get around as many balls as I'd like to. I tried to get it going.

"Sometimes if you get a few rallies going, it's a bit easier but I had no rhythm, especially that first set - it just flew by. Sometimes your body doesn't do what your mind is telling you to."

Hampton, who will meet the Netherlands' Kiki Bertens in today's quarterfinals, was supremely confident after taking out last year's champion, Zheng Jie, in her opening match. The 22-year-old strolled through the first set in 27 minutes.

It was a demolition job.

While she had to work a little harder to seal the one-sided win, there were no fears Hampton would lose. After some early encouragement, even local supporters lost their enthusiasm and Erakovic hinted she may consider expressing her personality - incorporating the odd fist pump - to maintain their involvement next time. Sometimes I act a little differently here. I just plod along because don't quite know what to expect; I want to please the crowd but I don't want to overdo it."

Erakovic wasn't the only notable casualty yesterday.

Inother matches, German second seed Julia Goerges struggled in the heat and crashed out, losing a three-set match 7-5 6-7 (7-1) 6-3 to Swedish challenger Johanna Larsson, who booked a spot against eighth seed Mona Barthel today.

Goerges struggled for much of the draining contest. The world No 18 is again suffering with sickness but Larsson could not resist a friendly jibe. "I could definitely hear her coughing. It seems to me she is always having something.

"She always goes with the tissue," Larsson said. "It doesn't matter what tournament we are at."

Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska made quick work of her match, beating Simona Halep 6-3 6-1.

Yanina Wickmayer, the 2010 champion, beat Romani Oprandi (6-3 6-2) to set up an all-Belgian quarterfinal with Kirsten Flipkens.

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- Fairfax Media

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