Tennis: Injured Fognini doubtful for Australian Open

CHENNAI (AFP) - Third seed Fabio Fognini of Italy joined the growing injury list at the ATP Chennai Open on Thursday, leaving him uncertain of playing in the season's first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, in mid-January.

The Italian world number 16, who had on Monday withdrawn from the doubles due to a thigh injury, retired from his second-round match against Indian wildcard Yuki Bhambri after an hour's play on the centre court.

The 195th-ranked Bhambri won the first set 6-1, and the scores were tied 5-5 in the second set when Fognini decided to quit the match.

The Italian became the sixth player and the third seeded star after number two Mikhail Youzhny of Russia and defending champion Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia to pull out of the $450,000 season-opener.

"I feel very bad that I am not being able to compete in this tournament," the 26-year-old Fognini said. "I felt okay for the last two days, but there was a lot of pain during the match.

"I really don't know what I will do now. Whether I should go home, or go to Sydney to practice. At this stage I can't say I will be fit for the Australian Open. I need to have check-ups to know the full extent of the injury, but the only thing I can do now is rest and hope for the best."

Fognini was the first Italian to finish among the top 20 since Corrado Barazzutti achieved the feat in 1978, and was hoping to push further ahead in the new year.

Tournament director Tom Annear said he was disappointed at the large number of withdrawals, but hoped the players will recover fast and return to court in the next few weeks.

"It does diminish a tournament, but we get a fair idea of how fit a player is and it is just unfortunate that so many have pulled out in the last few days," Annear told reporters.

"Fognini was obviously in trouble when he opted out of the doubles, but he must have thought he was good enough to play today." Bhambri, 21, a former Australian Open junior champion, said he was delighted to make the quarter-finals of his home tournament even if it came through the easy way.

"That is the nature of the game," he said. "I did feel bad for Fognini but it is important to make use of any advantage that comes my way. I thought I played well and am ready for the next match." Bhambri takes on fifth seed Vasek Posposil of Canada, who secured a walk-over when Taiwan's Yen-Hsun Lu opted out with a leg injury.

Sixth seed Marcel Granollers of Spain cruised into the quarter-finals with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Indian qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan.

Granollers will play fourth seed Benoit Paire for a place in the semi-finals after the 26th-ranked Frenchman ousted Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-1, 6-4.

"Nice way to start the year," said Paire, who was handed a bye in the first round. "It is good to be in the quarter-finals. I think I hit the ball well and feel confident about my game."

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