Three of Top Four Seeds Make Semis

By John Delong

Benoit Paire, Steve Johnson, Denis Shapovalov and Hubert Hurkacz are all into the Winston-Salem Open semifinals.

The four completed their quarterfinal matches on Friday afternoon, matches that were postponed from Thursday due to rain and a power outage that crippled the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.

Paire, the tournament’s top seed, beat 2016 WSO champion Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6, 1-6, 6-3 in the first match on Center Court; Johnson came from a set down to beat John Millman 4-6, 7-6, 6-4; Shapovalov, the second seed, won a battle of NextGen stars with a 6-3, 7-6 victory over Andrey Rublev; and Hurkacz, the third seed, rallied from down a set to beat Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 7-6, 6-1.

Paire recovered from a slight groin injury suffered early in the second set, and there was no denying him in the third set.

“I was a little bit scared with my injury,” Paire said. “Decided to wait a bit and see. The beginning of the third set I was hitting good, so things started working. It started feeling better.”

Paire is looking for his third ATP Tour title of the year, after winning in Lyon and Marrakech earlier this year. He came into the WSO ranked No. 30 in the latest ATP Tour rankings.

Paire beat Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Ugo Humbert in earlier rounds.

“To me it was very important to make a semifinal this week before the US Open,” Paire said. “My first time in the semis here. I had only won one more in five years coming here, so I’m feeling good. This tournament is very important to me.”

Johnson made it through to the semifinals for the third time since 2015; he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the finals last year.

“It was hot today,” Johnson said. “I thought I rebounded well after having my chances in the first set. I got a break early in the third, and I thought I served well the rest of the way.  Any time you can get through a day like that against a guy like that, it’s great for the confidence.”

Johnson was unseeded, coming into the tournament ranked No. 82. He beat Corentin Moutet in the first round, Daniel Evans in the second round, and Casper Ruud in the third.

“I just feel at ease here,” Johnson said. “I’m not one for a crazy big life. I really enjoy going to New York for the two weeks I’m there, but I don’t think I could live there. It’s just too hectic. I enjoy the kinda slow pace here of playing, going to dinner, relaxing and that sort of thing. It feels more like home here.”

Shapovalov has been brilliant all week, and he said playing Rublev – fresh off a win over Roger Federer in Cincinnati last week – always brings out the best in him.

“I’m just happy with the way I’ve been playing,” Shapovalov said. “Every match has been difficult, and I’ve been able to work through it. It was a great match today against Andrey. We kinda both bring out the best in each other, so I thought it was pretty high quality. It was fun to be on the court with him.”

Shapovalov beat Tennys Sandgren in the second round and Miomir Kecmanovic in the third round. His last semifinal appearance came in Miami this spring.

“I think I’ve been playing pretty well throughout the season,” he said. “I think it’s been a little more of a mental struggle, my game’s been there. I think now that I’m a little fresher, and I’m focusing on the right things during the match. It’s all kinda clicking together.”

Hurkacz, a 22-year-old from Poland, has flown under the radar much of this week despite being the No. 3 seed. He beat Duckhee Lee in the second round and Feliciano Lopez in the third round when Lopez retired.

Hurkacz was up two breaks before Tiafoe rallied in the second set to force a tie-break, but Hurkacz dominated the breaker with seven straight points. He then carried that momentum into the third and won easily.

“Frances is a great player, it was a tough match,” Hurkacz said. “I was up two breaks in the second set and then he came back and played really well. But I played a really good tie-breaker and I was able to keep the momentum into the third set. I think winning the tie-breaker helped me (in the third set) and I stayed aggressive and played well.”

 

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