* Czech Stepanek into last eight
* Spain’s Garcia-Lopez continues hot streak
(adds quotes, Garcia-Lopez win)
TOKYO, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Former top 10 player Radek Stepanek became the first man to reach the Japan Open quarter-finals after Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli retired with a back injury on Wednesday.
Last week’s surprise Thailand Open winner Guillermo Garcia-Lopez stunned sixth seed Feliciano Lopez 7-6 6-4 in a Spanish shootout to continue his purple patch of form.
Stepanek was leading 5-7 7-6 4-1 when his opponent quit having already had a lengthy rubdown from the trainer on centre court.
“Until the moment Marco hurt his back I was always behind,” the Czech told reporters. “I was trying to hang in. It was more a mental game than a tennis match.”
Stepanek, who reached number eight in the world in 2006, proclaimed himself 100 percent after a mononucleosis scare at the start of the year sidelined him for three months.
“It was not a good time -- spending all my time at the doctor’s having blood tests,” he said. “When I came back I hurt my knee and was off for six or seven weeks again.
“Look at (2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin) del Potro,” he said referring to the Argentine who has missed most of the season with a wrist injury. “It’s always so tough to come back and play at the highest level.
“But I’m newly married (to former top-10 player Nicole Vaidisova) and there are more important things than hitting a tennis ball.”
Chiudinelli, who won their only previous meeting in August, took the first set in glorious autumn sunshine before calling for a medical timeout after tweaking his back.
Spread-eagled face-down and shirtless, the Swiss received a massage which appeared to do have done the trick until he surrendered the set with an ill-timed double-fault in the tiebreak.
The third set was one-way traffic and Chiudinelli threw in the towel to spare himself further injury on the quick hardcourts.
World number one Rafa Nadal was given the day off after safely coming through his opening match on what many players have described as the world’s fastest tennis court.
Garcia-Lopez, who shocked Nadal in the Bangkok semi-finals, produced another upset to book his place in the last eight.
“I’m doing everything perfect,” said Garcia-Lopez. “I won a tournament last week and two matches here.
“To beat Rafa in the semi-finals was the best win of my career. I’d never beaten a world number one. I’m playing the best tennis of my career with seven wins in a row!”
Editing by John O’Brien and Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com
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