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Another stunner by Pegula lands her in semis

By: Anirudh Sridhar

Jessica Pegula

The 2016 Citi Open is proving to be a breakout tournament for 22-year-old Jessica Pegula. The tournament wild card, ranked just 173rd in the world, upset top seeded and world No. 14 Samantha Stosur, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Easily the biggest victory in the rising star’s career, Pegula, who has not yet won a professional tournament, earned a spot in the semifinals against fellow American Lauren Davis.

Heading into the day, it was easy to see this as a potential upset. Pegula was fantastic against Christina McHale in her last match, showing incredible composure even after blowing a 5-1 lead in the first set before closing it out and breezing through the next one. Stosur on the other hand struggled against a one-armed Caroline Wozniacki, who despite being unable to backhand, was whipping her serves past Stosur.

Pegula may not have had a ton of aces in her one hour, 29 minute match against Stosur, but she was able to continue having success with her serve that was hitting around 108 miles-per-hour over throughout the tournament.

Pegula won 85-percent of her first serves in the match and went a tremendous 25-for-29 in the first set. Stosur had opportunities to win that first set, but six double faults killed her and after she lost it she looked defeated as Pegula pulled away in the second set for the victory.

Prior to the tournament, Pegula said she spent time practicing with Stosur and that gave her knowledge of how to reach these levels of big events, while also showing her a thing or two about the flaws in her game.

“She probably doesn’t want to hear that, but it really helped me practicing with her,” Pegula said.

Davis earned a spot in the semifinals after beating Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-4, 6-4. Giorgi committed nine double faults that took her out of the game from the serve.

Johnson lone American survivor after upsetting Isner

Steve JohnsonSteve Johnson defeated last year’s runner-up and the number one seed of this year’s tournament, John Isner 7-6, 7-6, with the second set tiebreak score of 17-15.

Isner had a 5-3 lead in the first set tiebreak and couldn’t capitalize and similarly had three set points in the second set when he went up 6-3 in that tiebreak and squandered the opportunity eventually leading to his defeat. Isner missed an easy forehand at the net that would’ve won him the set.

At the end of the first set, Isner smashed his racket in frustration leading to a string of “boos” from the crowd.

“I had countless chances today. I did a lot of really good things today, certainly in my pinon put more pressure on him than he put on me,” he said, “It was super frustrating and it’s been happening all year, and today as hard as it is to swallow I played the right way. I shot myself in the foot in the second set.”

Yesterday Isner said that the conditions in Washington this week favored the players with a strong first serve and powerful forehand and it showed in the first two quarterfinal matches. After Karlovic totaled over 20 aces in the stadium, Isner followed that up with 29 aces and Steve Johnson added 21 aces.

“John had 30 something aces today and Ivo could easily have that many tomorrow but you just got to pay attention to your serve and hope for that one break, and if not just get to the tiebreaker and win as many points on your serve as possible,” Johnson said.

Johnson is the last hope for the Americans with three of them losing in the quarterfinals and should expect a similar match to his quarterfinal on Saturday against the ace-machine Karlovic

Croatian skyscraper pours in the aces in route to the semifinals

Under the brutal Washington D.C heat, Ivo Karlovic d. Jack Sock 7-6, 7-6, in a match that featured a flurry of strong first serves.

“It was hot and there was a lot of bounce and spin,” Karlovic said. “It was a difficult match and in crucial moments I was able to come up with big shots and that’s why I was able to win today.”

The 37-year-old tennis journeyman Karlovic tallied 26 aces to advance to the semifinals of the 2016 Citi Open. Sock had a lot of powerful serves himself but the bounce from Karlovic’s serve and the spin from the court troubled him throughout the game

Sock had four break point opportunities in the second set but could not take control of the match.

“It’s pretty annoying (going up against the serve),” Sock said. “Especially on a day like today when the ball bounces even higher, it’s pretty ridiculous sometimes. He’s (Karlovic) always in the top 3 or 4 in serving stats every year,”

Sock and Johnson were also ousted in their doubles match 6-4, 6-0, as it seemed like they had run out of gas in the tank after both of them played in two tiebreaks earlier in the day.

Monfils entertains the crowd in route to another win

Gael Monfils continued his Citi Open campaign by defeating Sam Querrey 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

The match was one of the most entertaining of the tournament, and the fans were able to actually watch two tennis players rally for points instead of watching the player’s trade aces back and forth like the previous two matches on Friday.

Monfils broke Querrey’s serve early in the first set and held serve to an easy first set victory. He had six aces in the first set and won 76-percent of his first serve points, something that has been key for him throughout the tournament.

The crowd was thoroughly entertained as both players hit magnificent forehand and backhand winners down the line, and Monfils played a couple trick shots as well. Monfils ran to play a ball near the net and fake jumped like he was going to play a powerful forehand shot, but instead just lightly tapped the ball down the right side.

Later on in the match, Monfils tried a behind-the-back shot, which drew a loud “ooo” from the crowd but it went out.

Querrey came storming back in the second to go up a break 3-1 with a tremendous forehand winner at the net, and eventually went on to win the second set with ease. This led to the first three-set match on Centre Court all day.

The third set was mostly sluggish, but Monfils was able to break early and go up 3-0 on Querrey. After breaking Querrey’s serve, Monfils saved two break points on his next service game and let out a loud “Allez” to the crowd.

Querrey had six aces before the third set, but had none in the third set and only completed 44-percent of his first serve and only won 50-percent of those first service points.

Monfils only completed 40-percent of his first serves in the third set but won 80-percent of those first serve points.

Monfils advances to the semifinals to take on the 19-year-old Alexander Zverev. The young German upset the No. 4-seeded Benoit Paire, and actually made very easy work of him with a 6-1, 6-3 victory in just under an hour. Zverev was tremendous keeping pressure on Paire early with a 25-for-29 performance on first serves won. Zverev has been one of the most impressive players throughout the tournament and quite surprise this far, but playing the way he is playing it’s impossible not to see him as a contender to make it to the finals.

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Anirudh Sridhar

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