Chennai: Unseeded Belgian Xavier Malisse kept himself on course for defending the title as he shrugged off initial threats before disposing of sixth seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria 7-6 (3) 6-2 to enter the quarter-finals of the Chennai Open ATP tennis championship on Wednesday night.
Fourth seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia and Florent Serra of France also entered the quarter-finals scoring hard fought wins in their respective second round matches.
The third day proceedings saw both Malisse and Youzny going through some frightening moments before their progress to the last eight stage as their rivals forced the more experienced stars to sweat for their wins.
MAN IN FORM: Mikhail Youzhny of Russia returns a shot to Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France during their match at the Chennai Open.
The quarter-final match between Youzhny and Malisse on Friday promises to be one of the best matches as both of them are known for their power packed play and forehands.
Youzhny escaped from the jaws of defeat with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-2 win over Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. Florent Serra, on his career ATP debut, scored a memorable victory over Belgian Kristof Vliegen 7-5 4-6, 7-6 (3).
Serra will take on the winner of the match between former champion Carlos Moya of Spain and qualifier Alexandre Kudryavtsev tonight in the quarter-finals.
In doubles, the Indian duo of Mustafa Ghouse and Karan Rastogi went down fighting against higher rated Marin Cilic of Croatia and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan 4-6, 6-7 (1).
Malisse, who has the rare feat of having won a double crown in the event last year but went out of action for next six months due to a wrist injury, would have been stretched to extra points in the first set, but he was never broken literally all through the match.
Known for his enormous right-hand forehand and great power, the Belgian was perhaps assessing his rival in the first set which went on serves before he closed out in the tie-breaker for the vital lead.
The defending champion, who had said that he has nothing to lose since he is able to serve well and pick the right balls for winners, was confident personified in the second set.
Leading 3-1, Malisse showed sympathy to Melzer in the sixth game allowing the latter to win a game on his serve. The Belgian was relaxed having worn down the Austrian and won the last three games in a row without much ado.
As for the statistics, Malisse's abilities to score more winners on return of serve helped him to earn more points than his rival and had a 73 per cent and 50 per cent success on total service points won and return points won as against 50 and 27 per cent of his rival.
In a doubles match, Indian American, Rajeev Ram and his partner Harel Levy of Israel caused a major upset ousting fourth seeded duo of Tomas Cibulec (Cez) and Lovro Zovko (Cro) 6-3 4-6 12-10.