Steve Johnson punches ticket to Delray Beach Open quarterfinal, will face Radu Albot

David Furones
Contact ReporterSouth Florida Sun Sentinel

Once again, the Delray Beach Open is there to jump-start Steve Johnson early in the season.

Entering 0-3 on the season, Johnson, the tournament No. 4 seed and world No. 34, has won his first two matches in Delray to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals after a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi in the round of 16 on Thursday afternoon at Delray Beach Tennis Center.

“I’ve never been the best starter of years – I know that,” said Johnson, who last year was 1-5 heading into Delray before reaching semifinals, “but you definitely want to get wins sooner rather than later and kind of help build your momentum going into a season.”

While Johnson works on his starts to seasons, finishing sets was a strength against Lorenzi in what was their first meeting. Holding serve all match, Johnson broke Lorenzi’s serve at 6-5 in each set to come away the victor. Lorenzi missed a forehand long on match point after Johnson gained the advantage due to Lorenzi’s double fault, one of five for him, all in the second set.

“I just kind of got balls down, you know, I got kind of sound at serving the ball and was able to get it down at his feet and hit a couple of good passing shots,” Johnson said. “I definitely would like to clean up a few things for [Friday], and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Johnson will face Moldova’s Radu Albot on Friday after he edged Nick Kyrgios in three sets later Thursday afternoon. While able to pull through, Johnson was not pleased with his play and how he dealt with the wind on Thursday.

“Probably one of the worst days I think I’ve had here in Delray,” said Johnson, who popped up a few balls he didn’t hit clean. “It’s always windy, but the way it was swirling, gusting. I was having a hard time being really accurate with my shots. I tried to play as passive as possible but still being aggressive and not beating myself. Just glad that I served well today, and on the side with the wind, I tried to take my chances.”

Albot eliminates Kyrgios

Albot managed against the hard serve of Australia’s Kyrgios and his 19 aces to win 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and advance to face Johnson in quarterfinals.

“It’s a very good win,” said Albot. “I think Nick is a great player, one of the top in the world, for sure one of the best servers in the world, so I’m happy.”

Albot, from Moldova, avenged his loss to Kyrgios in the first round of the U.S. Open last year by bouncing back in a third set after Kyrgios had seized momentum in the second. Albot broke Kyrgios’ serve, which was reaching 130 mph in the fourth game of the final set.

“He’s dictating the rhythm on his serve, but on my serve, he’s not, so I guess you just need to hold your serve and see what happens,” said Albot, who also broke Kyrgios twice in the first set. “You just need to be ready, expect whatever is going to happen. He can go 130, he can go 80. Just need to move your legs and be there.”

McDonald a winner

There was another American winner at night Thursday as Mackenzie McDonald beat Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 6-4.

McDonald on Friday will face the winner of Thursday’s late round of 16 match between world No. 4 and top tournament seed Juan Martin del Potro and Palm Beach County resident Reilly Opelka.

Doubles semifinals set

The Bryan Brothers secured the last of the doubles semifinals berths on Thursday evening as twins Bob and Mike Bryan beat France’s Adrian Mannarino and Hugo Nys 6-3, 7-5.

The most successful doubles tandem of all time gets Marcelo Arevalo and Jamie Cerretani after they topped Robert Lindstedt and Tim Puetz 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) on Thursday morning. Great Britain’s Ken and Neal Skupski, along with the Albot and Yoshihito Nishioka duo, qualified for the doubles semifinals on Wednesday.

dfurones@sunsentinel.com / @DavidFurones_

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