KARLOVIC, MANNARINO, LU INTO THE QUARTERS

KARLOVIC, MANNARINO, LU INTO THE QUARTERS

KARLOVIC, MANNARINO, LU INTO THE QUARTERS

Lu Stuns Top Seeded Kevin Anderson In Nightcap
BY STEVE DORSEY

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DELRAY BEACH, FL. – Another stunning upset occurred in the nightcap match for the second consecutive day at the ATP World Tour Delray Beach Open.

Twenty-four hours after No. 2 seed John Isner was ousted in his first-round match, Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei defeated No. 1 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6(6), 6-3 Wednesday night to close out the second round of play at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.

It’s the first time since 2006 that the top two seeds have failed to reach the quarterfinal round at Delray Beach.

The three other seeds in singles action Wednesday – No. 4 Ivo Karlovic, No. 5 Adrian Mannarino and No. 7 Steve Johnson – each won to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.

The 31-year-old Lu, who lost his first-round match at Memphis last week, entered the week with a No. 61 ATP World ranking and reached the quarterfinals for the first time in six appearances at Delray Beach. He held off a four-point rally by Anderson in the first-set tiebreaker, then broke service to take a 4-2 lead in the second set and closed out the match, overcoming 12 aces by the lanky Anderson, who is ranked No. 15 in the world.

“He’s a great player and you cannot give him any chances,” Lu said of his mindset going into the match against Anderson. “I think the whole match I was just concentrating and really not (trying to get) emotional. This match will let me get back a little confidence for the year, but it’s still a long season. I’m happy for this moment now.”

The temperature was in the mid-50s for the nightcap and Anderson, who now resides in Gulfstream on the outskirts of Delray Beach, said he didn’t adapt well to the chilly weather conditions.

“I felt a little out of sorts, but I felt like (Lu) stuck to his game plan,” Anderson said. “He was hitting through the ball, stayed patient throughout. I think maybe I could have just scrapped a little more in the second (set) even though I felt I wasn’t playing my best tennis. It’s definitely not the match I wanted to play. It’s not the greatest feeling right now.”

Lu’s quarterfinal opponent on Friday will be Mannarino. The Frenchman breezed to a 6-2, 6-2 win against American wild card Denis Kudla earlier Wednesday.

“He’s in a zone now,” Lu said of Mannarino. “It’ll be a tough match. I have to be ready, especially because he’s a lefty.”

Mannarino lost in the first round at Memphis last week, and the 26-year-old will be playing in his first quarterfinal in Delray Beach after losing in the second round here in his two previous visits in 2011 and ’14.

“I think I played better than I have the past couple of weeks,” said Mannarino, who arrived here with a No. 41 ATP ranking. “Now that I’m feeling fit, I want to be much more consistent. I feel like I’m able to go further than I have in some other tournaments.”

Johnson ended the run of 17-year-old Russian wild card Andrey Rublev, last year’s World No. 1 junior who was coming off his debut win here, with a 6-3, 6-3 win in the evening session’s first match. Johnson, a semifinalist at Delray Beach last year, also reached the quarterfinals at Memphis last week.

“It’s tricky when you play those guys who have nothing to lose,” Johnson said of Rublev, who trailed 4-1 in the second set before winning the next two games to get back in the set. “He’s down two breaks and he’s teetering on the edge of let’s go home and let’s just slap winners and see what happens. He didn’t have any caution out there. He just hit the ball hard and he got back in it. I’m glad to be done for the day. Credit him, he didn’t go away until the end.”

Johnson was somewhat perplexed at his 59 percent first-serve perecentage and said he hopes to correct that before Friday’s quarterfinal match against Karlovic.

“It’s a part of my game I usually don’t have too much trouble with, but these first two matches here I haven’t felt great serving, so I’m going to go out and work on that (Thursday),” Johnson said.

Johnson won his two previous matches against Karlovic, both times rallying from behind to win third-set tiebreakers.

“I’ve gotten lucky twice against him,” Johnson said. “I would like not to get in that position again, but if it comes, I know I’m ready for the battle. I played well enough to win (Wednesday) and I’ve got another day to practice tomorrow and then get another crack at Ivo on Friday. It’ll be a completely different matchup, but I’m always happy to get a win and I still think my best tennis is ahead of me in this tournament.”

Karlovic needed a couple of tiebreakers to hold off Aussie teenage qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis, a player half his age.

Kokkinakis was one of an unprecedented three teenagers to advance to the second round at Delray Beach, but the 18-year-old rising star couldn’t quite find enough to pull off another upset following No. 2 seed Isner’s stunning loss Tuesday night, as Karlovic advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6(4), 7-6(2) victory.

“I was really focused (in the tiebreakers),” said the 35-year-old Karlovic who is ranked No. 29 in the world.

Karlovic’s serve was a factor in holding off Kokkinakis, as evidenced by the Croatian’s 21 aces.

“I played really well. I just didn’t get off to a good start in the tiebreakers,” said Kokkinakis, acknowledging that he tends to struggle against big servers like Karlovic. “It shows my game is there. I just need to keep pushing myself.”

Kudla lost in the second round for the second consecutive week and was frustrated with his play Wednesday.

“It wasn’t a great day,” said the 22-year-old Kudla, who is ranked No. 132 in the world. “When it came to execution, I was missing by just a couple of inches.”

American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan had not played since losing in the third round at the Australian Open, but the World No. 1 doubles team notched a 6-3, 7-5 victory against Dustin Brown and Mannarino.

Bob Bryan made a highlight film behind-the-back shot during the fifth game of the second set that led to the decisive game point and denied Brown and Mannarino a 4-1 lead.

“We had a little luck. Bob hit it behind the back, which was the top shot of the year maybe and we broke back there, which was nice,” Mike Bryan said.

“It’s great to get back on the court after a few weeks off,” Bob Bryan said. “Actually it feels nice to face a little adversity and get out of it. In an early match it’s nice to be tested and I think it’ll help us down the road in this tournament. There’s a lot of tough teams here this week.”

Next up for the No. 1 seed Bryans will be John-Patrick Smith and Michael Venus, who defeated James Cerretani and Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-2, 7-6(8).

“It’s nice to get a match under our belt here,” said Mike Bryan, who has teamed with his brother to win three Delray Beach titles. “This is kind of where we kicked off our year last year, so hopefully we play well here and continue that in the Davis Cup and play well at Indian Wells.”

Bernard Tomic and Viktor Troicki also advanced to the next round in doubles, beating Aljaz Bedene and Alejandro Gonzalez 6-4, 6-2. While Tomic and Troicki move ahead as a doubles team, one will be eliminated in the singles draw when they play each other Thursday night in the last match of the day.

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