ISNER REACHES SECOND STRAIGHT SEMI IN DELRAY BEACH

ISNER REACHES SECOND STRAIGHT SEMI IN DELRAY BEACH

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 ISNER REACHES SECOND STRAIGHT SEMI IN DELRAY BEACH

[column size=”00-1″ last=”1″ style=”1″] Top Seed Joined By Former Champs Haas and Gulbis in Semifinals
by Steve Dorsey

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Top-seeded John Isner ended Kevin Anderson’s bid to win back-to-back titles Saturday night in the quarterfinals of the ATP World Tour’s Delray Beach International Tennis Championships.

Isner’s 6-2, 7-6(1) win avenged a loss in last year’s ITC semifinals to Anderson, who was the defending champion. Isner will face Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who ousted Ricardas Berankis in straight sets, in a semifinal Saturday night. The other semifinal Saturday afternoon will pair qualifier Ernests Gulbis against No. 2 seed Tommy Haas.

Isner, ranked No. 15 in the world, registered 17 aces, had only one double fault and won 76 percent of his service points to reach his second semifinal of the year. Three of his aces came in the second-set tiebreaker, which Isner won when Anderson double-faulted on match point.

“I can’t serve any better than I did in the tiebreaker,” said Isner, who is the last American remaining of the eight who were in the draw here. “All in all, it’s a match I’m very, very happy with. . . . I wanted to do well (here), but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. I think I play better when I keep the expectations low and let things come to me.”

Anderson, the No. 6 seed who is No. 29 in the ATP rankings, was playing in his first tournament since undergoing right elbow surgery on Jan. 21.

“Coming off any surgery is really tough, especially on your right elbow,” Isner said of Anderson. “I don’t think he had the rpm on his serve, especially in the first set. I knew that the second set would be tougher than the first.”

Haas and Gulbis, two former champions at the Delray Beach ITC, will square off against each other on Saturday after winning their respective quarterfinal matches Friday afternoon at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.

Both players reached the semifinals in distinctively different matches Friday, with Haas needing three sets to get past Ivan Dodig 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-1 after Gulbis, playing his sixth match of the tournament, breezed to a straight-set win that took less than an hour.

The Haas-Dodig match was a roller-coaster ride that was filled with dramatic twists and turns, particularly in the first set when Dodig won five consecutive games after Haas led 4-0. Dodig had two set points, but Haas broke serve to knot the set at 5-all and switch the momentum back to Haas.

Haas squeezed a backhand return down the line on match point in the tiebreaker to win the first set. Dodig roared back to win the second set, but Haas was dominate in the third set to claim a berth in the semifinals.

“Strange first set,” said Haas, who is ranked No. 19 in the world. “I started off with momentum, then he had it. Three times in a row of not holding serve, that really frustrated me. I told myself to make it tougher on him. I played a little better in the tiebreaker and momentum went back again on my side.”

Haas, who at 34 is the oldest ATP World Tour player ranked in the top 50, said he anticipates a challenging match Saturday against Gulbis, who became the seventh qualifier to reach the semifinals at the Delray Beach ITC with a 6-1, 6-4 win against Daniel Munoz-De La Nava.

“He’s obviously very talented. He’s got a lot of firepower,” Haas said of Gulbis, who needed only 43 minutes to dispatch De La Nava. “He’s a guy that when he’s feeling good and he’s gaining some confidence, he’s very tough to beat. He has the ability to make spectacular shots. He’s shown that, being a champion here in 2010 and winning in Los Angeles (2011).”

Gulbis, who notched his first career ATP World Tour title here three years ago, earned himself some well-deserved rest with his quick quarterfinal match, having played six matches this week to reach the semifinals.

“It’s energy I can store,” Gulbis said of his quick straight-sets victory. “Everything was more or less good. There was nothing I didn’t like about today’s match. I felt like I could win every game.”

De La Nava, who at No. 154 was the lowest ranked player remaining in the draw, was coming off a three-set upset of No. 8 seed Xavier Malisse on Thursday that lasted just more than two hours. Gulbis, who is ranked No. 109, upset No. 3 seed Sam Querrey to reach the quarterfinals and will be playing in his seventh career ATP World Tour semifinal Saturday. He’ll be facing a rejuvenated Haas who has battled back from injuries in recent years and last year was the ATP Comeback Player of the Year.

“I’m just happy to be back and that I’m playing some really good tennis and can compete with the best of them,” said Haas, whose match against Dodig lasted two hours. “I’ll need to recover as quick as I can so I’m good for tomorrow. I couldn’t do that a year and a half ago.”

Roger-Vasselin ended the run of lucky loser Berankis with a 6-4, 6-3 win in the other evening quarterfinal. Roger-Vasselin is No. 105 in the ATP World Tour rankings and his win against Berankis was his first in six career ATP World Tour quarterfinal appearances. Roger-Vasselin has won all three of his matches here in straight sets, but Isner will be the first seeded player he’s faced this week.

The semifinals in doubles also will be contested Saturday. In Friday’s matches, Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau, the No. 1 doubles seed, defeated Malisse and Frank Moser 6-0, 6-4. Mirnyi and Tecau will face No. 4 seed Johan Brunstrom and Raven Klaasen in one semifinal Saturday. Brunstrom and Klaasen defeated Jaroslav Levinsky and Yen-Hsun Lu 7-5, 6-1.

Dustin Brown and Christopher Kas also advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 3-6, 10-5 win against German countrymen Andre Begemann and Martin Emmrich. They will meet Americans James Blake and Jack Sock, who were 6-2, 6-1 winners against Berankis and Evgeny Donskoy.

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