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Isner Continues On Track While No. 8 Seed Anderson Rebounds To Beat Favorite Roddick

By Steve Dorsey

South African Kevin Anderson stunned local favorite Andy Roddick in a singles quarterfinal match Friday night at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships to set the stage for a couple of interesting semifinal matches on Saturday.

Anderson, the No. 7 seed here this week, rallied after losing the first set to oust No. 4 seed Roddick with a 2-6, 7-6(9), 6-4 victory that advanced the 6-foot-8 right-hander to a matchup Saturday against No. 1 seed and 6-foot-10 American John Isner in the semifinals.
Isner, who is a career-high No. 11 in the ATP World Tour rankings, made quick work of No. 8 seed Bernard Tomic of Australia in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon. Isner, the No. 2 American, needed only 56 minutes to defeat Tomic 6-3, 6-2. Tomic was making his first appearance in the Delray Beach ITC main draw.
Dudi Sela of Israel and qualifier Marinko Matosevic of Australia penciled themselves into Saturday’s other semifinal match with three-set victories.
Roddick, No. 30 in the ATP rankings, was playing in front of a partisan crowd at the Delray Beach Tennis Center only a few miles from where he attended high school. He was bidding to reach his first semifinal at the Delray Beach ITC since 2002 when he was the tournament runner-up.
Anderson spoiled the homecoming party, however, by winning a gut-wrenching second-set tiebreaker in which Roddick had three match points but failed to close out the match. Each time, Anderson tied the score and prevailed 11-9 to force a deciding third set, where the lanky South African broke Roddick’s serve twice en route to winning the set and match.
Anderson said it took him a while to adjust to playing at night under the lights, but once he did the match turned more his way.
“There’s really a big difference playing at night,” Anderson said. “I picked it up after the first set. It was definitely a physical match. I think I’m going to feel more comfortable going into tomorrow (night) having played under the lights tonight.”
Roddick was disappointed in the way he served, but said overall he was pleased with his play here this week after having battled hamstring and ankle injuries recently.
“I played well enough to win. I didn’t serve well enough to win,” Roddick said. “My serve was average all week, and it caught up to me. I played OK this week. I returned a little better, I was moving a little better than a week ago. . . . My confidence is better, but there’s still work to be done. My returns were better than last week, my forehand was better, I could run this week. My serve was bad, but I’m pretty confident that will come around.”
Anderson and Isner have met each other five times before, and they also played each other in college. Anderson, who played at the University of Illinois, joked that Saturday night there won’t be “8,000 Bulldog fans hollering” in reference to Isner’s alma mater, Georgia.
“I’ve played John a few times and he’s a tough opponent to play,” Anderson said of Isner. “He’s probably got the best serve in the game. It’s a great weapon for him. I’m going to have to be on my return game.”
Isner, who now has a 9-3 match record this season, said it didn’t much matter who he faced in the semifinals.
“It should be a pretty similar matchup regardless of who I play,” Isner said of his first semifinal match of the season. “Obviously their game starts with their serve just like mine does.”
Isner echoed the sentiments of the other two winners on Friday afternoon regarding the swirling winds at the Stadium Court.
“The wind was very tricky,” Isner said, adding that he had some trouble figuring out which direction it was blowing at times, but nonetheless was determined to be aggressive in his game plan against Tomic.
“If he has time, that’s when he gets comfortable and gets his feet going and into the match,” Isner said of Tomic. “I played the break points well. I went for them. If I lost a point, I was trying my best to lose it on my terms.”
Sela ousted the last remaining seeded player in the bottom half of the bracket when he defeated No. 5 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-0 in Friday’s first of four quarterfinal matches. It’s the first ATP World Tour semifinal for Sela since Chennai in January 2010 and his first semifinal in Delray Beach.
Matosevic, who is ranked No. 173 and was making his first career ATP World Tour quarterfinals appearance, dispatched Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. It’s the first time they squared off against each other.
The windy conditions forced Matosevic to adjust his approach against Gulbis, but Sela did not seem too affected.
“I think I play well with the wind. I think it suits my game,” said Sela, who won 70 percent of his first-serve points, but stumbled in the 12th game of the second set when Kohlschreiber broke his serve after Sela had taken a 6-5 lead by breaking Kohlschreiber.
The third set was all Sela, who said his backhand has been his strength here this week and he hopes to improve on his ATP No. 75 ranking after falling from a career-high ranking of No. 29 in 2009.
“My goal is to move into the top 50 and win an ATP event (this year),” Sela said. “I played very bad at the beginning of last year, so I had to play some challengers. I played well and won four challengers and was back in the ATP (Tour), so I think it was a good year for me last year.”
Matosevic is hoping history will repeat itself at Delray Beach. Three qualifiers have reached the ITC finals here since it moved to Delray Beach in 1999 and Kei Nishikori won the title in 2008. Matosevic said he is expecting a tough match against Sela, who ousted Matosevic in the first round here last year.
“He’s a tricky player to play. Small guy, low center of gravity,” Matosevic said of the 5-foot-9 Sela. “There is a history of a qualifier winning here, so I like that. I came all the way through the qualies and I’m very happy with that.”
Matosevic said the wind was bothering him in the first set, but he settled down for the final two sets and breezed to victory.
“The conditions were really tough and the wind was really getting me down at first,” Matosevic said. “I started letting him make the mistakes. I won a challenger (last month) and I’m on a 11-match winning streak, so I feel pretty confident.”
The final line in the doubles semifinals also was filled in Friday night when Mikhail Elgin of Russia and Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan defeated Robert Farah of Colombia and Treat Conrad Huey of the Phillipines 6-2, 3-6, 10-8.