Chennai - Top seed Stanislas Wawrinka began the new year by sailing into the quarter-finals of the ATP Chennai Open on Wednesday even as second seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia withdrew due to illness.
The Swiss world number eight overcame two rain interruptions to defeat Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-3, 6-1 on the centre court of the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium.
Wawrinka had emerged from the shadows of legendary compatriot Roger Federer in 2013 with semi-final appearances at the US Open and the ATP World Tour Finals, where he lost both times to Novak Djokovic.
The Swiss said ahead of the $450 000 Chennai event, which he won in 2011, that a consistent display in the tournament will serve him well at the Australian Open in mid-January.
"It’s a good start," said Wawrinka. "I was really happy with my performance today. It was humid out there after the rain, but I was focused. I feel good about my game."
Youzhny, who won the title in 2008 with an astonishing 6-0, 6-1 rout of Rafael Nadal in the final, appeared unsettled as Dudi Sela of Israel raced to a 3-1 lead before the Russian conceded the match.
The world number 15, who like Wawrinka was given a bye in the first round, said he failed to recover from a stomach bug he picked up in Thailand last week.
"I wanted to play but I was not powerful enough to play," the 31-year-old veteran said. "When you have a restricted movement, it’s no use playing on centre court and losing."
Sela, ranked 73rd in the world, will take on seventh seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France in the quarter-finals.The Frenchmen cruised to a 6-4, 6-4 win over 85th-ranked Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, who at 20 years of age is the youngest player in the ATP top 100 list.
"I feel relieved because it was a tough match," the 52nd-ranked Roger-Vasselin said. "I got nervous when it began to rain at match-point, but luckily we were back on for just two more points. At least we did not need a third set."
Roger-Vasselin said Youzhny's withdrawal did not give him an easy passage into the semi-finals since Sela was always a tough opponent.
"Dudi is a very good player," he said. "I know him really well. We have played each other a few times. Dudi may not be as high in the rankings as Youzhny, but you can never tell.
"A few mistakes would make it tough. But if I play good, I have a chance to win. I will be ready for sure."
Youzhny's pull-out also did not mean much to Wawrinka. "It does not matter," he said. "If it is not Youzhny, then it will be someone else because this is a strong field.
"I can only focus on what I have to do and that is to play well. But I will take it match by match."
Wawrinka's quarter-final opponent will be unseeded Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia, whose Russian opponent Alexander Kudryavtsev conceded the match in the second set due to a leg injury.
Bedene lost the first set 1-6 but was leading 3-0 in the second when the match ended.
Two other leading contenders who were handed first round-byes, third-seed Fabio Fognini of Italy and number four Benoit Paire of France, will begin action on Thursday.
Results from the $450 000 ATP Chennai Open tennis tournament on Wednesday (seedings in brackets):
Dudi Sela (ISR) bt Mikhail Youzhny (RUS x2) 3-1 (retired)
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI x1) bt Benjamin Becker (GER) 6-3, 6-1
Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA x7) bt Jiri Vesely (CZE) 6-4, 6-4
Aljaz Bedene (SLO) bt Alexander Kudryavtsev (RUS) 1-6, 3-0 (retired)