IT’S ALL SET: CILIC VS ANDERSON

IT’S ALL SET: CILIC VS ANDERSON

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IT’S ALL SET: CILIC VS ANDERSON
Hottest ATP Player vs Home Court Advantage

By STEVE DORSEY

DELRAY BEACH – Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson will duel it out Sunday afternoon for the singles title at the ATP World Tour Delray Beach Open.

It was early Sunday morning before that matchup was set, as the nightcap match was delayed almost three hours because of rain and did not end until almost 1 a.m. But the wait was worth it for Cilic, who defeated John Isner 7-6(5), 6-3.

Anderson, who now calls Delray Beach home, will have a chance to become the fifth player to hoist the championship singles trophy on Sunday after he ended a magical run by American qualifier Steve Johnson with a 6-2, 6-4 win in the first semifinal Saturday afternoon.

Anderson, ranked No. 21 in the world, won here in 2012, but he will have his work cut out for him against a red-hot Cilic, who reached his third consecutive final – Zagreb, Rotterdam and Delray Beach.

“It’s probably the best three weeks I’ve played in my life,” said Cilic, who reached his 20th career ATP final. “I couldn’t be happier. I’m enjoying these moments.”

Cilic fought back from a 3-0 deficit in the first-set tiebreaker to hand Isner his fourth consecutive first-set loss this week.

“I was definitely lucky to get out of that one,” said Cilic, who has not lost a set here this week.

“Up 3-0 and serving, more times than not I like my chances there,” Isner said. “I didn’t play very well after that.”

Anderson registered 13 aces and won 86 percent of his first-serve points against Johnson.

“I’m pleased with the way I executed that part of my game,” said Anderson, who has a 7-2 record this year. He was 0-3 in finals last year.

Anderson played near-flawless tennis in the first set against Johnson, who admitted having some nerves playing in his first ATP semifinal. Anderson broke serve twice in the first set to take a 4-0 lead. Johnson, meanwhile, struggled some with his first serves in the first set.

“Getting that first break was really key for me,” Anderson said. “I was hitting my spots.”

Johnson, who is expected to move up in the rankings to about 114 – he entered this tournament ranked No. 142 — settled down in the second set. But with the second set tied 3-3, Anderson broke Johnson’s serve and then closed out the match on his next two serve opportunities.

Anderson applauded the performance of Johnson, a former two-time NCAA singles champion from the University of Southern California, in his debut at Delray Beach that included two upset wins against seeded players.

“He’s definitely got the game to move up,” Anderson said of Johnson, who is in his second year on the ATP World Tour.

“I definitely was a little uptight in the beginning, but credit (Anderson). He played very well,” said Johnson, who upset No. 1 seed Tommy Haas and No. 6 seed Feliciano Lopez to reach the semifinals. “He was a better tennis player today, and I have nothing to hang my head about. It’s been a great two weeks, first Dallas and here. It’s going to keep me motivated. My short-term goal is to get into the top 100.”

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Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 doubles team in the world, easily defeated fellow Americans Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock 6-2, 6-1 in the doubles semifinals. Their opponent in Sunday’s final will be Czech Frantisek Cermak and Russian Mikhail Elgin, who defeated Samuel Groth of Australia and Max Mirnyi of Belarus 6-4, 3-6, 10-8. The Bryans, runner-up last week in Memphis, will be trying to win their first title this season and third Delray Beach title – they won here in 2009 and 2010.

“We came out with a lot of positive energy and kept the foot on the gas,” Bob Bryan said. “We’re going to try to keep it up tomorrow.”

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