Milos Raonic stepped up his claycourt game ahead of the French Open as the second seed began his Portugal Open campaign with a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas to reach the quarter-finals on Thursday.
In front of a sold-out May 1 holiday crowd at the Jamor Sports Complex, the Canadian managed what compatriot Eugenie Bouchard could not as the second seed lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in a quarter-final in the women's draw 6-4, 6-1.
Raonic, ranked a career-best ninth, was held to just six aces but earned his last one in the final game as he sealed victory in 67 minutes.
His South American opponent, ranked 197, never had a chance at a break point.
Top seed Tomas Berdych was making his start in the second round as he faced Somdev Devvarman of India later in the day.
Portugal's Gastao Elias duplicated his 2013 quarter-final with an upset of Spanish fourth seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a wildly popular home win 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 taking just over two hours.
The ATP number 179 will Friday line up against Victor Hanescu after the Romanian beat Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
In the women's draw, double Grand Slam title winner and seventh seed Kuznetsova reached only her third WTA semi-final in as many seasons with a 6-4, 6-1 upset of Bouchard.
The Russian won 11 of the last 12 games.
Kuznetsova, ranked 29th, last played a semi last year in Moscow, losing to Samantha Stosur. Before that, her previous appearance in a final four came in January, 2012, at Auckland.
The Russian played a quarter-final here a year ago after last competing in Portugal in 2002.
“It's nice to be back in the semis,” said the 2009 French Open winner and 2004 US Open champion. “My clay season is certainly starting better than my hardcourt.”
Kuznetsova came to Portugal after reaching the quarter-finals last week in Stuttgart and had trained briefly with Bouchard earlier in the week.
“I had seen her play some matches but the training gave me a chance to see her game -- and the same for her,” said the 28-year-old. “It helped me figure out how to play her.”
Kuznetsova got off to a poor start, trailing 4-1 in the opening set before closing the gap with breaks in the seventh and ninth games against her 20-year-old opponent, an Australian Open semi-finalist in January.
Kuznetsova won the slow-moving set in 43 minutes, then opened the throttle to run away to victory in another half-hour.
The Russian put Bouchard under major pressure, forcing the Canadian to save 10 of 15 break points with her game not helped by four double-faults.
“I was able to play my game and everything worked out well for me,” said the winner, who now faces Romanian Irina Begu who reached the semi-finals over Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 7-6 (8/6). – AFP