Australian hopes dashed as Stosur exits

Australians hoping for an end to their country's Grand Slam futility aren't going to see it happen on home soil.

Sam Stosur was not the only hometown disappointment Friday night, but the French Open finalist was the Aussie with the best chance of winning. In the evening's first marquee match she lost 7-6 (5), 6-3 to No. 25 Petra Kvitova.

"I would have dearly loved to go further than I did," the No. 5-seeded Stosur said. "It's always disappointing to lose. Especially here."

Immediately after, the packed Rod Laver Arena watched 18-year-old Australian wild card Bernard Tomic put up fight, but lose in straight sets to No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

The 26-year-old Stosur became the first Australian woman to crack the top five in a quarter-century and reached the French Open final last year. That's as close as any Australian woman has been to a Grand Slam trophy since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980. Lleyton Hewitt was the last Aussie man to win a Grand Slam title, at Wimbledon in 2002.

"I actually thought I played really well," Stosur said. "So, it's hard to walk off the court thinking you played well."

Stosur took a 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker, but ultimately lost the tense 63-minute first set and never fully recovered.

The home crowd at Melbourne Park might not have helped because of the added pressure. Stosur has never passed the fourth round of the Australian Open in eight previous appearances.

Kvitova said she enjoyed the raucous center court.

"I like this court and this crowd," said the No. 28-ranked Czech, who whacked 35 winners to Stosur's 11. "Unfortunately, it was against me, but it was still nice."

She faces Italy's Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round.

___

DOUBLES DRAMA: "Vamos!" shouted the Indian doubles player. His Spanish-speaking opponents were clearly not amused.

Tennis etiquette was put aside during a heated doubles match between India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi and Spain's Feliciano Lopez, who was playing with Juan Monaco of Argentina.

The No. 3-seeded Indians won the second-round match 7-6 (2), 6-4. Match officials stepped in to calm the players after the match, when the two teams approached the net, arguing and gesticulating angrily. The losing team then refused to shake hands with the Indians.

Lopez later told reporters that Paes was "trying to provoke us all the time."

"At one point, we were a little bit tired of the style he was using on the court, and that's all that happened," Lopez said.

Lopez did not specify which point, but the Indians say he intentionally hit a serve aimed at Paes, who jumped out of the way to avoid being hit.

"There was one serve fired at Leander," Bhupathi said. "We're all professionals, I don't think he would have missed (the service box) by that much."

The Indian team was openly amused by the antics in their postmatch news conference. Bhupathi blamed the tension on their opponents' "not being in a happy place" because they were losing. And because it was a hot summer day.

"It's hot out there, we're trying to beat each other. A few unnecessary things were said," Bhupathi added, smiling. "The crowd loved it. We got into it."

"They probably were not happy that we used the word 'Vamos,'" Bhupathi conceded. "Small things like that added up. Kept adding to their frustration that we were playing good tennis."

"Vamos!" — Spanish for "let's go!" — is commonly used by Spanish-speaking players and their fans.

"It's just one of the words I like to use," Paes said, adding that Spanish speaking players have taken offense to it in the past. "Nobody has a patent on it."

Paes added that they do not intend to censor themselves in the next round, where they face Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Marcel Granollers, the No. 13-seeded team.

Tournament officials did not immediately comment.

___

THE BUBBLE'S BACK: Pesky bubbles keep percolating at Hisense Arena.

For the second day in a row, a bubble-like pucker rose from the flat blue surface of Melbourne Park's second show court.

Saturday's bubble, inconveniently, emerged during the third-round match between No. 4-seeded Robin Soderling and Jan Hernych. It forced a seven-minute delay while a technician treated the problem by drilling holes and pounding it with a mallet to relieve the pressure.

Soderling beat his Czech opponent 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.

A different swelling appeared Friday, and Maria Sharapova noticed it while warming-up for her third-round match against Julia Goerges. She informed the umpire, the warm-up was halted, tournament officials rushed in and the driller arrived.

After that incident, tournament referee Wayne McEwan said moisture from recent rain had gathered under the court's Plexicushion layer but had evaporated as temperatures rose in recent days and caused a pocket of vapor that lifted part of the surface.

Soderling's match was the first of the day, and no additional bubbles were reported at later matches.

___

RING, RING, IT'S BJORN AGAIN: Sometimes Robin Soderling's phone rings and the voice on the other end is none other than Swedish tennis great Bjorn Borg.

"We meet sometimes, and sometimes he calls me, sends me texts. It's nice," the No. 4-seeded Swede said of the support he gets. Borg won 11 Grand Slam singles titles in the 1970s and early 80s.

Soderling has come close a few times to winning his first major, but obstacles keep getting in the way, namely No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Roger Federer.

The Swede has lost the last two French Open finals — once to Nadal and once to Federer. He reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2010, losing to Nadal, and at the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Open, losing to Federer both times.

But he has beaten both players on other occasions and doesn't feel intimidated by their domination at Grand Slams.

"They're No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. I think in every tournament they play, they will be the favorites," Soderling said. "I think there's many guys who can actually compete against them and have a chance to win."

Soderling advanced Saturday to the Australian Open fourth round for the first time in his career, beating Jan Hernych 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. He served 10 aces and hit 33 winners, dominating the 241st-ranked Czech, who managed eight winners.

Soderling hasn't dropped a set and is on an eight-match winning streak with his three at Melbourne Park after winning the tuneup tournament at Brisbane.

He faces Alexandr Dolgopolov, who won a five-set, third-round match against 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, and could meet Nadal in the semifinals.