Auckland: Argentine Juan Martin del Potro made a confident start to his preparations for the Australian Open with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Denis Shapovalov at the Auckland Classic on Wednesday.
Former US Open champion Del Potro hit eight aces to breeze past the 18-year-old Canadian, who hit 20 winners but committed 40 unforced errors.
The 29-year-old second seed, who won the tournament in 2009 in his last appearance, will now be the favourite after top-seeded American Jack Sock was bundled out by unheralded German Peter Gojowczyk.
Del Potro will next face Russian Karen Khachanov, who beat sixth-seeded Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 7-6(4), in the last eight.
”I was surprised by the match today," said Del Potro, who had lost to Shapovalov in Montreal last August. ”I didn’t expect to play at this level in the first match of the year.
”But I’ve been working hard to play this tennis and hopefully I can still improve in the next matches.
“If he has a good day, he is very dangerous as a lefty, he serves well and volleys. Denis played better than me in the Montreal match, but today I broke him three times to love and that was the key.”
Sock made a surprise exit in the second round, beaten 6-3, 6-3 by unseeded Gojowczyk.
Gojowczyk moved the eighth-ranked Sock around the court with deep ground strokes which created angles the American was unable to defend.
After dropping serve in the fifth game of the first set, Gojowczyk broke Sock in the sixth and eighth games to take the set in 32 minutes.
Gojowczyk served strongly and broke the top seed in the seventh and ninth games of the second set to post his second win over a top-10 player.
Sock's fellow American seeded players Sam Querrey and John Isner also exited in the second round but put up more of a fight.
Third-seed Querrey lost a marathon battle to Czech Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-7(12), 7-6(5) while fourth-seed Isner fell to 21-year-old Korean Chung Hyeon 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-2.
Defending champion Sock had a bye in the first round and dismissed his lack of form by saying he was "rusty" and claimed he had tried his best against the German despite some odd shot selections.
"It's my first match of the year, I don't know what you guys expect of me," he said when questioned about his approach to the game.
While it was Sock's first ATP tournament of 2018, he did play in the Hopman Cup last week where he was narrowly beaten by Roger Federer 7-6, 7-5.
Sock said credit also had to go to Gojowczyk who is ranked 65 in the world.
"I was up a break in the first set, you guys act like I lost 6-0 6-0," the 25-year-old American said.
"The guy hit some unbelievable returns, he was painting lines all over the place, slapping balls coming in ... It was a rusty first match, but you've got to get the cobwebs off, the ball didn't feel as good as it has in the past."
Fifth seed and 2016 champion Roberto Bautista Agut came from a set down to beat Steve Johnson 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, while four-time champion David Ferrer was untroubled in his 6-2, 6-2 win over Joao Sousa.
In the other quarter-finals, Vesely plays Bautista Agut, Gojowczyk faces Robin Haase and Ferrer plays Chung.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jan 10, 2018 16:48 PM