Krajicek advances in Milan

MILAN, Italy, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek saved three match points in a third-set tiebreaker Wednesday to defeat Radek Stepanek and advance to the quarterfinals of the Milan Indoors.

One day after winning his first indoor match in more than two years, Krajicek rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (15-13) victory over his Czech foe.


After splitting the first two sets, the Dutch wild card missed a low backhand on match point at 13-12, but won when Stepanek hit a forehand wide.

"The key moment was when I broke back at the start of the second set," Krajicek said. "Had he gone up 2-0, it would have been very difficult. The end of the match was very close, of course, and I feel he had more chances than me."

The 31-year-old Dutchman sat out the entire 2001 season with a right elbow injury after years of struggling with bad knees. He returned to action last June but missed the last quarter of the season with a left heel injury.

This year has been better for Krajicek, who opened 2003 with a semifinal appearance in Adelaide.


"The motivation comes from the fact that I have been away for the last two years and I feel that the game hasn't outgrown me," he said. "If I can stay healthy and play a few tournaments, I believe I could do some good things and get back into the top 30."

Stepanek knocked out top-seeded Jiri Novak on Monday.

Krajicek will face eighth seed Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in Friday's quarterfinals. Nieminen overcame Anthony Dupuis of France, 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-4, on Wednesday.

In another second-round encounter, Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands dispatched Thomas Enqvist of Sweden, 6-3, 6-4, to reach his second career ATP quarterfinal.

"I'm serving unbelievably well this week," said the 24-year-old Verkerk, who won two titles last year on the Challenger circuit. "I worked hard on my serve and also to stay loose during matches. I hope I can keep it up.

"This is probably my best week on the ATP circuit, even if I had reached the quarterfinals in Indianapolis last year. To beat (Adrian) Voinea and Enqvist indoors is a pretty good accomplishment. I had never played well indoors before this week. Clay used to be my favorite surface."


Less than a week after his epic five-hour, five-set marathon with Andy Roddick in the Australian Open quarterfinals, third seed Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco lost to Italian wild card Andre Gaudenzi, 7-5, 6-3, in the first round.

It was Gaudenzi's first ATP victory of the year.

Fifth seed Fabrice Santoro of France withdrew Wednesday due to fatigue before his first-round match with Davide Sanguinetti of Italy. He won the Australian Open doubles title with Michael Llodra over the weekend and arrived from Melbourne on Monday.

"January was a long month and I did not expect to play that many matches," Santoro said. "I think it is better for myself, the tournament, for the crowd and the lucky loser if I don't play."

Sanguinetti took advantage of his opportunity and cruised to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over countryman Giorgio Galimberti -- the last player to lose in qualifying.

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