20 Feb SEMIFINAL SHOWDOWN IN DELRAY BEACH
SEMIFINAL SHOWDOWN IN DELRAY BEACH
Young vs Tomic, Mannarino vs Karlovic
BY STEVE DORSEY
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DELRAY BEACH, FL. – American Donald Young continued his early-season success on the ATP World Tour with a come-from-behind victory Friday and will join Croatian Ivo Karlovic, Frenchman Adrian Mannarino and Aussie Bernard Tomic in the semifinals on Saturday at the ATP World Tour Delray Beach Open.
Young became the first to punch a ticket into Saturday’s semifinals when he rallied to defeat No. 3 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the day’s first match. The victory sends Young, ranked No. 56 in the world, to his second consecutive ATP World Tour semifinal and fifth of his career after reaching the semis at Memphis last week.
Karlovic, the No. 4 seed here, closed out the quarterfinal round with a 6-2, 7-6(4) win against American No. 7 seed Steve Johnson in the nightcap. Karlovic’s semifinal opponent will be No. 5 seed Mannarino, who rallied to oust Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Young’s opponent in Saturday’s semifinals will be Tomic, who dispatched Japanese teen qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-1 to set up a rematch of last week’s quarterfinal match at Memphis.
“I’m excited. I’m playing well. I hope it’s not over yet,” said Young, who lately has been playing at a level many expected when he turned pro in 2004 as the top-ranked junior. “This is the best time of my career. Back-to-back weeks (in semifinals). Ride the wave and hopefully this is not the end and I can win some more.”
Young’s win Friday gives him a 9-3 match record this year. The 25-year-old left-hander didn’t reach his ninth tour-level win last year until mid-June. Young has attributed part of his turnaround to a change in his mental approach to the game since he began consulting with a sports psychologist about two years ago. He said there’s still improvement to be made, but the process seems to be taking him to the next level, which was evident Friday.
Young visibly showed frustration after losing the first set to Dolgopolov, but he regained his composure in the second set and turned the momentum in his favor. Young said he changed his somewhat conservative approach to a more aggressive game plan.
“I didn’t start off the way I wanted to,” Young said. “(Dolgopolov) was playing pretty well. I just decided to buckle down, go out swinging and it happened to work.”
Young failed to convert five match points before finally closing out the match on his sixth opportunity.
“It was that many? Wow, I wasn’t counting,” Young said of the missed opportunities to close out the match sooner. “It was tough. I can remember a lot of times before when that would have been it for me. Before, I would have been like, ‘Here he goes again, back to the same cycle of having chances and losing,’ but this time I’ve been winning matches. So you kind of just focus on the next point.”
Young said that’s basically how he approached the rest of the match after losing the first set.
“I was relaxed, forgot the last point. You can’t do anything about the past, so I focused on not allowing a string of points to him,” Young said. “I’m enjoying this moment right now.”
Dolgopolov, who arrived at Delray Beach with a No. 24 ATP World Tour ranking, was playing in his first quarterfinal match of the year.
“I had chances and didn’t use those chances,” Dolgopolov said. “I think the main problem was my game. (Young) got some confidence from the second set, that he’s back in the game. I gave him back the momentum, and then he was playing more confident and I was playing less confident, so that’s how the third set went.”
Tomic filled out the bottom half of the singles draw semifinal bracket when he dispatched Nishioka in straight sets. It ended an inspiring run here by the 19-year-old Nishioka, who registered his first ATP World Tour wins here this week after battling his way through the qualifier rounds.
“I felt in control and wasn’t going to miss, but you know, it’s not easy playing a player you don’t know, who you haven’t hit against, so you have to come out expecting their best,” Tomic said, adding that the windy conditions on the Stadium court affected both players. “The first few games were tough. After that, once I got the ball on my racket, I felt it was all going my way.”
Tomic, who is ranked No. 46 in the world, and Young will meet a week after Young beat Tomic in a closely contested three-setter at Memphis.
“We played a good match,” Tomic said of last week’s match. “He was serving for it at 5-4 and then I broke. And then he broke me at 5-5 and won the match. It was a tough three sets. I enjoyed playing that match. I’m going to take what I learned in that match and use it in the semifinals. It’s going to be huge.”
Young will be the second consecutive left-hander Tomic faces here and the Aussie said he knows that Young’s journey to this point has been a bit bumpy.
“There’s been a lot of talk about Donald when he was young (with) a lot of potential,” Tomic said. “It’s not easy. There’s a little pressure. He’s playing very good at the start of this year and he’s going to have a good year. I’m playing well as well.
Tomic credits the extensive fitness training he did during the offseason for his run here at Delray Beach where he has a 5-1 match record.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing here,” Tomic said. “Last week as well gave me a lot of confidence. And I think being outdoors is good.”
Karlovic, ranked No. 29 in the world and the runner-up here in 2010, delivered 17 aces in his win against Johnson, giving the 6-foot-11, 35-year-old 61 for the tournament. He’s also not been broken on serve this week en route to his second semifinal of the year.
“It was really cold and it wasn’t easy to move and be aggressive, but in the beginning I was playing really good. It might be one of my best sets,” Karlovic said. “Everything that I hit was in. I was confident in my game.”
Temperatures in Delray Beach are expected to warm up for the weekend and Karlovic said he is anticipating a strong challenge from Mannarino, who lost to Karlovic two years ago in their only other main draw match.
“I’m healthy and strong, but tomorrow’s going to be a difficult match,” Karlovic said. “If I serve well, I’ll have a chance.”
Mannarino reached the semifinals here for the first time in three appearances. He said he had trouble adjusting to the cool 60-degree temperature in the first set, but recovered nicely and waltzed to victory in the next two sets.
“In the second set I was just thinking about moving better and trying to keep the ball in the court,” said Mannarino, who is ranked No. 41 in the world and improved his match record to 8-4 this year. “I was more consistent (and) he made a lot of mistakes that helped me to get back into the match. And the third set I was really consistent and that was the difference.”
Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 seed in the doubles draw, breezed to a 6-1, 6-3 win against John-Patrick Smith and Michael Venus in a match that took only 43 minutes. The Bryan brothers’ win filled out the doubles semifinals bracket, as they will face fellow Americans Eric Butorac and Rajeev Ram in the first match on Saturday’s schedule at 1 p.m—and their fifth semifinal in Delray Beach.
Tomic also will be playing in the doubles semifinals Saturday night when he teams with Viktor Troicki to take on the No. 2 seed team of Raven Klaasen/Leander Paes prior to the Karlovic-Mannarino match.