17 Feb MAGIC RETURNS: MATOSEVIC UPSETS ISNER
MAGIC RETURNS: MATOSEVIC UPSETS ISNER
Anderson, Teens Move Into Second Round
BY STEVE DORSEY
Matosevic followed No. 1 seed Kevin Anderson’s 6-3, 6-3 victory over John-Patrick Smith in the early evening match at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center with a 6-4, 6-4 win against a very disappointed Isner, who entered the tournament with a No. 19 ATP world ranking.
“I struggled with my serve at times, but I felt like I was the better player,” said Matosevic, who arrived here ranked No. 78 in the world. “I had so many chances in the second set, and I felt I returned great tonight, returned his serve well and really happy with the win. Been working on my serve a lot and I feel like my second serve is really good now. In the three previous matches where he beat me, he took advantage of my second serve.”
Matosevic reached his first and only career ATP World Tour final here in 2012, losing to Anderson in the final. He’s now 7-5 overall at Delray Beach. He said he’s been dealing with various nagging injuries (lower back, bursitis, strained hip flexor) but is hoping his win against Isner is a sign that he might be able to rekindle the magic he had here three years ago.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to get healthy again,” Matosevic said. “I’d love to win the tournament where it all started for me.”
Isner, who lost in the quarterfinals at Memphis last week, did not hide his disappointment at losing in the first round, which ended his streak of reaching the semifinals here three consecutive years.
“I didn’t play well. I’m not good enough to not play well against players as good as these guys out here,” Isner said. “It’s disappointing because I expect more out of myself. I didn’t do anything well tonight. I had a few chances and didn’t capitalize.”
Isner said he’s been working diligently under new coach Justin Gimelstob and seemed perplexed that he didn’t perform to his expectations Tuesday night.
“It’s not for lack of effort,” Isner said. “Last year at this tournament I didn’t hit a ball for three and a half weeks, until the Sunday before the tournament and made it to the semifinals. And this year I’m practicing and doing all the right things and go out and lay an egg like that. It’s just how it goes. Best work I’ve ever put in, it’s just not revealing itself right now. It’s all on me. Trust me, it’s all on me.”
A trio of newcomers ruled the headlines in the afternoon action Tuesday as three teens – Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis, Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka and Russian Andrey Rublev – made history when they each won their first-round matches.
It’s the first time in the history of the Delray Beach Open that three teenagers advanced to the second round and the first time since 2007 at Indianapolis that three teenagers won their first-round matches at a 32-draw ATP World Tour tournament.
Kokkinakis, who is two months shy of his 19th birthday and earned a spot in the main draw as a qualifier, defeated Serbian Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-3 to set up a second-round match against No. 4 seed Ivo Karlovic. Kokkinakis has the highest ATP ranking of the three teens at No. 143.
Nishioka, another qualifier here and the oldest of the three teens at 19 years and 4 months, also won his first-round match in straight sets, dispatching Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-1. Ranked No. 154 in the world, Nishioka’s next opponent will be Matosevic.
Rublev, a wild card entry whose ATP ranking is No. 370, needed three sets to oust Dudi Sela of Israel 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. It’s his first victory on the ATP World Tour.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” said Rublev, who at 17 years and 3 months is the youngest of the three teenagers still alive in the draw. “On the third set I just kept fighting and trying to focus on what I was doing. I just come on the court and try to play my best.”
Anderson had to adjust his travel plans after playing in the final at Memphis on Sunday night and didn’t arrive in South Florida until about 8:30 Monday night. Despite only getting in about an hour of hitting Tuesday morning, the lanky South African who now calls Delray Beach home didn’t have too much trouble dispatching Smith of Australia in straight sets.
“It was a little tricky coming in just yesterday and just hitting for the first time today, but I’ve been practicing here for quite a while and felt pretty comfortable on center court,” said Anderson, who is ranked No. 15 in the world and next faces Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu, a three-set winner over Aussie Sam Groth on Tuesday. “I’ve played John-Patrick a couple times. He’s a lefty, a little bit unorthodox player, but I felt I hit all my basics great and that’s really what I was focused on doing. It really was about being patient and being really relaxed out there tonight.”
Anderson has fared well at Delray Beach, winning the championship in 2012, his last ATP World Tour title, and now has a 14-4 record here. This is the first time he’s been the No. 1 seed at Delray Beach.
“It feels good to be on top of the draw, but it doesn’t score you any free points,” said Anderson, who was the runner-up at Memphis. “It’s always tough losing in the finals. I’ve been there a few times, but I’ve just got to keep putting myself in that position to give myself that opportunity. It still leaves me a little unsatisfied falling one step short.”
The first seed to exit the 32-player main draw was No. 6 Sam Querrey, who had to retire during his afternoon match because of a lower back strain after winning the first set of his first-round match against Alejandro Gonzalez of Columbia.
“I just had a sudden movement at the net and kind of jerked my back a little bit,” said Querrey, who trailed Gonzalez 2-1 in the second set when he decided to default. “It’s an injury I’ve felt before. My whole lower back kind of tightened up. I’ve had this before in the past, (and) it was something that got better in a week, but this feels worse.”
Querrey, who is ranked No. 39 in the world after reaching his first semifinal of the year last week at Memphis, said he probably will have an MRI Wednesday.
“I’m bummed because I played well last week, and I was up a set and feeling confident,” Querrey said. “It’s part of the game, it happens. I don’t know how quickly this will be healed. I’m OK just walking around, but it’s excruciating getting up and down.”
Despite his disappointment of having to default, Querrey applauded the wins by the teenagers here Tuesday.
“It’s fun to see all these young guys out there,” Querrey said.
Another seeded player advanced to the second round by default when No. 7 seed American Steve Johnson was leading 6-3, 4-1 before Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan retired. Johnson’s next opponent is Rublev.
The other seeded players in action Tuesday were No. 5 Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who ousted American qualifier Eric Quigley in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, and Serbian Viktor Troicki, who rallied to beat Stephane Robert of France 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-1.
American Donald Young, a semifinalist at Memphis last week, also advanced with a 7-5, 7-5 win against Ivan Dodig of Croatia. Young was in the doubles final at Memphis and, like Anderson, didn’t arrive in Delray Beach until late Monday because of weather issues in Memphis, forcing him to drive home to Atlanta and catch a flight to South Florida.
“It was a good win for me, especially coming from Memphis on Sunday,” said Young, who opened the season by reaching the quarterfinals at Auckland and arrived here with a No. 56 ATP ranking. “I’m playing well right now. I’m enjoying the process. At 25, I’m starting to learn myself a little more, what makes me tick and what doesn’t.”
Young next will face Gonzalez in the second round and said he anticipates a tough match despite avoiding a showdown against fellow American Querrey.
“I’ve never played Gonzalez, but I’ve seen him and he’s a grinder,” Young said of Gonzalez, who is ranked No. 101 in the world and making his main draw debut at Delray Beach. “I know he prefers clay, but he’s going to compete. The confidence part is the biggest thing for me.”
American Tim Smyczek and Aussie Bernard Tomic also advanced in straight sets. Smyczek defeated fellow American Stefan Kozlov, a wild card entry, 7-5, 6-2, whilc Tomic ousted Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-3, 6-3.
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