Korda, Norrie Pull off Quarterfinal Upsets

Korda, Norrie Pull off Quarterfinal Upsets

By STEVE DORSEY 

 DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – The final four is set at the Delray Beach Open by Vitacost.com.

American Sebastian Korda and Cameron Norrie of Great Britain each earned hard-fought quarterfinal victories Monday night at the Delray Beach Tennis Center to fill in the final two slots for Tuesday’s semifinals.

The 20-year-old Korda ousted No. 2 and world No. 25 John Isner 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the evening session’s first match to reach his first ATP Tour semifinal. Korda also defeated Isner in their only other meeting three months ago at the French Open. Norrie’s 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 win in the nightcap against American Frances Tiafoe, the No. 8 seed here this week, leaves No. 4 Hubert Hurkacz as the only seeded player in the 28-player singles field still alive for the title.

Isner, who was seeking his first title in Delray Beach, announced in his post-match interview that he has decided not to enter the upcoming Australian Open. The 35-year-old American said he made the decision Sunday night not to travel to Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic because he didn’t want to be away from his family for more than a month.

“At this stage in my career and in my life, I’ve always had visions of being able to travel with my family, and of course that wouldn’t be the case with Australia this year (because of the pandemic restrictions), and understandably so,” Isner said. “It really was just a situation where I didn’t want to be away from my family that long. It wasn’t an easy decision at all, and I thought long and hard about it. But I feel comfortable with my decision. It’s the hand all tennis players have been dealt now, especially the ones with families.”

Isner, who has 15 ATP Tour titles, was bidding to reach his fifth semifinal here in Delray Beach, but was denied by Korda, who is knocking on the door of breaking into the top 100 rankings. Isner said he didn’t have his best game on this night, but had nothing but praise for the young fellow American.

“I wasn’t feeling that great out there, but I competed hard and I fought hard, but he came up with the goods for sure,” Isner said of Korda. “He came up with some good returns. He’s showing a lot of good maturity, there’s no doubt. I was asked by the ATP a couple days ago to name one player to watch out for this year, and I said him. So hopefully he proves me right. He’s a very good player. . . . I think he believes he belongs as a top player on the ATP Tour, and once you gain that belief it can take you a long way.”

That maturity by Korda was evident after he regrouped following the second set where the momentum seemed to switch to Isner.

“I think the big key for me was I changed up my court positioning on a serve halfway through the third set and I had a couple better looks on his serve,” Korda said of his strategy against Isner, who had 13 aces, much less than 22 he fired in just two sets on Saturday.

Korda showed a lot of poise in the final game of the match when saved three break points and then launched a match-winning serve that Isner couldn’t handle.

“I’m super, super happy with how I played that whole game,” Korda said. “I mean, he played an incredible first three points. I couldn’t really do anything. And then I kind of just stuck with it. I got a little more aggressive, and then at the end, that was a lot of stress in that last game. So I just kind of let it go.”

Korda said he felt his game was good enough to possibly make a run here after winning his first-round match, which he followed up by upsetting No. 5 seed Tommy Paul to reach his first career quarterfinal on the ATP Tour.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, but I’d say it’s definitely super rewarding for me,” Korda said. “I’m in my first semifinal, so it’s awesome for me.”

Norrie appeared poised to make quick work of Tiafoe, the 2018 Delray Beach champion who is ranked No. 62 in the world, when the 25-year-old Brit took the first set in only 26 minutes. But the 22-year-old Tiafoe found his composure and roared back to take the second set and turned what looked like was going to be a romp by Norrie into a compelling three-set match.

Tiafoe also rallied from a love-40 deficit to knot the decisive 10th game of the third set but Norrie held on to break and reach his first semifinal since Atlanta in 2019.

“It was tough for me to kind of hold on there, but I managed to play some big points under pressure and then sneak over the line,” Norrie said of his gritty win. “Just real fortunate to get through, but came up clutch on my serve and stayed pretty focused throughout the whole match, so real proud of myself. . . . It’s all great progression leading into Australia, so I’m happy with it.”

Norrie said he has been watching Korda, his semifinal opponent Tuesday night, this week and is impressed with what he’s seen.

“He’s playing great tennis. He’s got a big serve, really solid from .  ground,” Norrie said of Korda. “He’s really not got any weaknesses. Moves well, so it’s going to be tough. He real confident . . . so he’s a real dangerous player. It’s going to be really tricky, so I’m gonna have to rest up and get ready for that one.”

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