Spain's Fernando Verdasco emerged as a strong contender for next week's Australian Open with a 6-1, 6-2 demolition of world number three Novak Djokovic to book a place in the final of the Kooyong Classic on Thursday.
However, the tournament was hit by two withdrawals that could have a big impact on the first grand slam of the year when world number eight Robin Soderling and U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro both fell victim to injury.
Soderling retired hurt with an elbow problem after losing the first set 6-4 against Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic while organisers confirmed that Del Potro had pulled out of the tournament with an injured wrist, without elaborating on the extent of the damage. The Argentine had been due to play a semi-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with the Frenchman now advancing to meet Verdasco.
“Of course, the result was a surprise. You never go to the court, and even less, with one guy like Novak Djokovic, and you think that you are going to win 6-1, 6-2,” Verdasco said.
“Today I didn't feel good on the court since I stepped in,” Djokovic said. “He played well, but I made too many unforced errors and that's it.”