GRIGOR SERVES UP SEMIFINAL BERTH

 

 

GRIGOR SERVES UP SEMIFINAL BERTH

 

Rajeev Ram – Grigor Dimitrov Semifinal Set

 

By STEVE DORSEY

Delray Beach, Fla.—One half of the semifinal bracket was filled Friday afternoon when American Rajeev Ram and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria won their quarterfinal matches at the ATP World Tour’s Delray Beach Open.

Ram rallied from a first-set loss to oust Benjamin Becker of Germany 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 after Dimitrov, the highest remaining seed here, dispatched Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets.

Ram’s win assures that at least half of the players in the semifinals will be from the United States, as Americans Sam Querrey and Tim Smyczek will square off against each other tonight in the first of the remaining two quarterfinal matches at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.

Ram, who is No. 89 in the ATP World Tour rankings, registered eight aces against Becker, but it was a key juncture of the second set that propelled him to victory.

“It was a touch-and-go first set and he got it. The biggest point in the match was the 4-all game in the second set,” Ram said. “I saved a bunch of break points with great serves. I just happened to be on the right side of things today. I think it really could have gone either way. That game goes the (other) way and it’s probably over in straight sets. It got the match to the third set.”

Ram broke Becker twice in the decisive third set and delivered two of his aces in the final game, including the clincher on match point, to reach his first semifinal this year after exiting in the first round at Memphis last week.

“Everyone is good, and it’s not really a whole (lot of) difference between losing in the first round and getting to semis if just a couple of points go your way,” Ram said. “So that’s why you keep working, try to keep improving and put yourself in good positions as many times as you can.”

Ram’s opponent in the semifinals will be Dimitrov, who continued his so-far successful debut at Delray Beach. The World No. 28 Bulgarian, who is seeded No. 4 here this week, won 84 percent of his first-serve points en route to a 6-4, 7-5 win against No. 8 seed Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who is ranked No. 49 in the world.

Swirling winds for the second consecutive day had players in the afternoon matches making adjustments, but Dimitrov erased part of that dilemma by delivering seven aces. He closed out the match by breaking serve twice after Mannarino had taken a 5-4 lead in the second set.

“It makes conditions very difficult when you’re on the court,” Dimitrov said of the wind. “All you can do is stay focused. Not all my shots were there. Adrian is one of the trickiest opponents out there and he’s a lefty. (With) tough conditions, I just had to stay focused.”

Dimitrov commended the throng of Bulgarian fans on hand for his matches this week for inspiring him.

“It’s always great to have the flags around and to hear Bulgarian speech,” Dimitrov said. “It’s always good to have support behind you wherever you are. I’m far away from my country and I’ve always appreciated that kind of support.”

Dimitrov was indifferent as to who he would prefer to play before he learned of his semifinal opponent.

“Whoever is on the other side, it doesn’t really matter to me,” Dimitrov said. “I just want to play a lot of matches, improve my game, and with that you gain also a lot of confidence.”

Dimitrov and Ram have met a few times before but not recently.

“It’s been a while since I played him,” Ram said. “I’ve had decent success against him, but obviously he’s gotten a lot better in the last few years. It will be a good match, hopefully. He’s playing well, I’m playing well and I’m excited.”

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