Washington: Top seed Tomas Berdych and third-seeded Fernando Verdasco lost in the quarter-finals of the Washington Classic on Friday, the latest in a cluster of upset victims at the USD 1.2 million US Open tune-up.
Berdych, playing his first tournament since reaching the Wimbledon final, succumbed to Belgian Xavier Malisse, while Verdasco was sent packing by Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
Malisse will face Baghdatis in a semi-final on Saturday, while Marin Cilic, at number four the highest seed left in the draw, takes on Argentine David Nalbandian in the other.
Berdych`s week in Washington has been a far cry from his Wimbledon form, with scratchy three-set wins over qualifiers capped with a listless 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 loss to the 62nd-ranked Malisse.
The Czech was angry that he had been scheduled to play Malisse at noon on Friday after his previous match finished just before midnight the night before.
"The first set I felt like I was still sleeping," said Berdych. "I was not 100 percent ready. That`s very sad for me."
The 30-year-old Malisse frustrated Berdych by returning serve strongly and savoured the upset win.
"I have nothing to lose when I play against (big players)," he said. "Just like today. I played well constantly. It feels good be beat big players like that."
Berdych raised his game in the second set with improved serving, but Malisse stole the momentum back in the decider, and pumped his fist when his gangly Czech opponent punched a backhand volley long to end the match on a breezy day in Washington.
"The third set was one of the best I`ve played," said Malisse. "I was hitting through the balls, hitting it harder and harder with the forehand. And I served a lot better."
Baghdatis reeled off the last four games of the final set to defeat Verdasco 7-6, 6-4 in their first meeting on the tour.
The Spaniard joined seeded casualties Andy Roddick (2), John Isner (5) and Sam Querrey (6).
Nalbandian, playing in his first tournament since April after recovering from a hamstring injury, used three service breaks in the third set to defeat 13th-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Croat Cilic defeated Janko Tipsarevic 7-6, 6-4 for his fifth win over the Serb in five matches.