20 Feb Johnson Into Sixth Quarterfinal
Four Americans Reach Final Eight
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Steve Johnson lives in Southern California, but Delray Beach has become almost like a second home for him. Suffice it to say, he likes playing in the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com.
Johnson, ranked No. 76 in the world, stretched his record to 15-6 at the Delray Beach Open when he defeated fellow American Jack Sock 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 Thursday night to reach his fourth consecutive quarterfinal berth here and sixth overall at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.
“I’ve always felt comfortable on this court,” Johnson said. “I do alright with the wind and just kind of everything that Delray tends to bring. It’s bouncy, it’s hot, I like playing in the heat, so I just feel comfortable playing here. It’s just one of those tournaments you feel comfortable (playing) when you come back.”
The 21 matches that Johnson has played here is far more than any other player in this year’s field. Sock, the 2017 Delray Beach Open champion, was playing his 11th match here. The 27-year-old American was coming off an emotional first-round win Tuesday against defending champion Radu Albot after having had to sit out most of 2019 following surgery to repair a broken thumb. Sock, who had dropped completely out of the ATP rankings, could not duplicate that performance against Johnson, however.
“Jack’s a fan favorite a lot of places. It’s great to see him back,” Johnson said of Sock, the player he partnered with to win a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. “I thought he played reall good in the second set. I think I just kind of rode a little bit of momentum in the third (set).”
Johnson will attempt to reach his third semifinal in Delray Beach – his other two were in 2014 and ’18 – Friday night when he faces Canadian Milos Raonic, the No. 2 seed here this week. Raonic defeated Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany 7-5, 6-3 in Thursday’s nightcap.
“There were certain things I was trying to do and I wasn’t making headway at the beginning,” Raonic said of his second straight-sets win here this week. “I thought I was playing okay but he wasn’t missing any balls. I just sort of got lucky and squeezed out that first set, then I tried to put a little more pressure on him and he started to make a few more errors and it opened up the match a little more for me.”
Raonic, ranked No. 37 in the world, was a finalist at Delray Beach in 2017 and he improved his record here to 7-1 with the win against Stebe. His only loss here came in the 2018 quarterfinals when his opponent was none other than Johnson.
“That’s going to be tough. He beat me the last time we played here,” Raonic said of Johnson, one of four Americans competing in the quarterfinals. “I’m going to have continue to play better. Conditions at night are considerably different than during the day so I’m going to have to be a bit more patient and find the right balance.”