SYDNEY, Jan 11 (Reuters) - David Ferrer underlined his Australian Open threat by thrashing Gael Monfils 6-1 6-2 to reach the final of the Auckland Open on Friday and remain on course for a fourth title at the tournament.
Undoubtedly aided by a leg injury suffered by Monfils early in the first set, Ferrer needed just 49 minutes to dispose of the French former world number seven, five minutes less than he required to win his quarter-final against Lukas Lacko.
The Spaniard, fourth seed for Melbourne Park in the absence of injured compatriot Rafa Nadal, will face Philipp Kohlschreiber in Saturday’s final after the German beat American Sam Querrey 6-4 7-6 in the earlier semi-final.
Former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro expended similarly little effort in reaching the final of the Kooyong Classic, easing past Marcos Baghdatis 6-4 6-1 at the former Australian Open venue.
The world number seven, who was drawn to play a qualifier in the first round of the year’s first grand slam, will meet former world number one Lleyton Hewitt in Saturday’s final at the exhibition event.
“I was better than two days ago but I need to improve a lot more,” the Argentine told reporters.
“It’s our first tournament, the season has just started and it’s normal to feel strange but with time, tournaments and matches everything is going to be better.”
Kevin Anderson had a much tougher day at the office but clinched a place in the final of the Sydney International with a 3-6 6-4 7-6 victory over Julien Benneteau in a gruelling semi-final encounter.
The South African fired down 18 aces to get back into the contest after the Frenchman had won the first set and wrapped up victory with a volley at the net on his third match point after an exhausting 153 minutes in the Sydney heat.
Anderson, the first South African to reach the final in Sydney in the Open era, will meet the winner of the second semi-final between resurgent Australian young gun Bernard Tomic and the last surviving seed, Italy’s Andreas Seppi.
Agnieszka Radwanska, the women’s fourth seed for the Australian Open, later takes on Dominika Cibulkova in Sydney in a bid to win back-to-back titles after her triumph at the Auckland Classic last week.
In the Hobart warm-up, Russian Elena Vesnina upset American eighth seed Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-2 to reach Saturday’s final, where she will play defending champion Mona Barthel or Kirsten Flipkens. (Editing by Alastair Himmer)