Top seed Kevin Anderson fails to reach quarterfinals at Delray Beach
Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun upset top-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6 (6), 6-3 on Wednesday night in chilly conditions in the second round of the Delray Beach Open.
The 31-year-old Lu set up a quarterfinal match against fifth-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Denis Kudla of nearby Boca Raton. Ranked 61st, Lu is seeking his first ATP Tour title.
Fourth-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia also advanced, outlasting 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2). Karlovic, the 6-foot-11 Croatian who will turn 36 at the end of the month, will face seventh-seeded Steve Johnson in the quarterfinals. Johnson topped 17-year-old wild-card Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-3, 6-3.
Anderson’s ouster, together with second-seeded John Isner’s loss to Marinko Matosevic on Tuesday night, marked the first time the top two seeds have lost before the quarterfinals since 2006. It also was the 22nd time in the tournament’s 23-year history that the top seed failed to win the tournament. Mardy Fish in 2009 was the only No. 1 to capture the title.
"That’s not the match I wanted to play," said the 6-foot-8 Anderson, who lost to Kei Nichikori in the Memphis indoor final last week. "I felt sluggish in the conditions. And he stuck to his game plan and was hitting through the ball. I wasn’t putting any returns in the court."
Lu played a consistent, no-frills style of tennis that forced Anderson to take chances. The South African, who lives and trains in Delray Beach, was ineffective in his service games as Lu bunted reflex returns back into the court.
After playing on serve through the first set, Lu took a 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker, largely on Anderson’s unforced errors. The top seed fought back to 6-6 with a forehand that skidded off the baseline. But he then netted a forehand and then a backhand to hand Lu the set. After breaking Lu’s serve in the first game of the second set, Anderson immediately lost his own serve and never recovered.
Karlovic, who could be competing on the ATP Champions Tour for senior players, used his serve to overpower Kokkinakis.
"If I didn’t come up against a guy who serves out of a tree like that, I would have had a good chance to keep going," Kokkinakis joked about Karlovic’s 21 aces, including four in a row — one on a second serve — in the 10th game of the first set.
Neither player was able to break serve, though each had chances. Karlovic double-faulted twice in the second game of the match to set up break points but escaped with strong serves. Kokkinakis saved two break points while serving at 2-3 in the second set.
Kokkinakis had another chance with Karlovic serving at 3-2 in the first-set tiebreaker. After a crafty exchange near the net, the Australian attempted to lob over Karlovic’s left shoulder but the ball fell short, allowing the Croatian to hit a high backhand volley winner.
"Trying that lob was a pretty dumb play," said Kokkinakis, who gained attention when he played two five-setters during the Australian Open. "That point really killed me."
At 1-2 in the second set, with Karlovic planted at the net, Kokkinakis drilled a forehand right at his opponent, forcing Karlovic to duck as the ball landed inches inside the baseline.
"He can really hit those forehands so it was really difficult for me," said Karlovic, who is currently ranked No. 29, down from a career-high of No. 14 in 2008. "He’s unbelievable. He’s young and he will be very, very good. I was just hanging in there and serving really well."