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Surfing seeds struggle in Portugal

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Australian Matt Wilkinson's faint hopes of snaring surfing's world championship have taken a further blow on a nightmare opening day for the top seeds in Portugal.

The 28-year-old Wilkinson finished third in his first-round heat on Tuesday behind Brazilian winner Miguel Pupo, who posted the first big score of the event with an 8.17 on his second wave.

It meant Wilkinson and second-placed fellow Australian Ryan Callinan failed to progress straight to the third round and faces a second round elimination heat with France's Jeremy Flores.

"When I was walking in the competitors area I saw Wilko (Wilkinson) look at the waves down there so I sort of knew he would sit down the beach," Pupo said.

"But Ryan (Callinan) and I had waves after waves and luckily I got the one with the double-up."

Early season leader Wilkinson headed into the penultimate World Surf League event in Peniche as a title outsider, ranked third behind championship-leading Hawaiian John John Florence and Brazil's Gabriel Medina.

Boosting matters, however, was the poor showing of both Florence and Medina - who were also forced into knockout round two matchups.

Wilkinson sits 9900 points behind Florence on the championship leaderboard with 10,000 points awarded for each tour event winner.

South African Jordy Smith, fourth on the leaderboard and also a mathematical chance of becoming world champion, successfully launched his campaign with a win over Flores and American rookie Kanoa Igarashi to advance straight into round three.

Meanwhile, Australia's Josh Kerr claimed the day's equal-highest combined heat total with a 15.90 out of 20.

"The only game plan I have when there's like little wedgy peaks like this is to just go out and have a free surf," Kerr said of the inconsistent surf, after registering his two best scores on a big frontside aerial and a backhand tube.

Fellow Australians Joel Parkinson and Kai Otton also advanced straight to the third round with opening-day victories.

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