Semifinal Saturday Set At Las Vegas Tennis Open

Blaz Rola (photo: Cashman Photo)

LAS VEGAS, October 27, 2018 (by Steve Pratt)

The semifinals at the Las Vegas Tennis Open will have a distinctly international flavor Saturday as two Australians, a Norwegian and Slovenia player each won their third consecutive matches in the ATP $50,000 Men’s Challenger on Friday at the Fertitta Tennis Complex at UNLV.

Each of the four players didn’t drop a set on a warm Friday in near-perfect conditions. The No. 3 seeded Casper Ruud from Oslo, Norway will face unseeded Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia in the second semifinal while Blaz Rola of Slovenia takes on J.P. Smith of Australia in the first semifinal set for 10:30 a.m.

The 19-year-old Ruud is the only seeded player remaining as beat unseeded Kamil Majchrzak, 7-5, 7-5. “I’ve been getting a lot of free points on my serve because of the altitude the balls are bouncing,” said Ruud, playing in his final tournament of the year.

He will take on former 29-year-old Australian J.P. Smith. From 2007 through 2011, Smith was a four-time All-American at the University of Tennessee and made it to the college No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles during his career. On Friday Smith beat former Michigan star Jason Jung, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

“I’m excited to be in the semifinals,” said Smith, who like all the players have had to adjust to the noise of the planes taking off directly overhead from nearby McCarron Airport. “I was here in Las Vegas once when I was 21, but haven’t been back. It’s just such a great city.”

Kokkinakis dropped just five games against Darian King of Barbados, 6-1, 6-4. “My serve wasn’t really where I wanted it to be at the start of the match but it came around,” said Kokkanakis, just one of a handful of players who has beaten all-time great Roger Federer this year.

Qualifier Mathias Bourgue’s Las Vegas run ended in a 6-4, 7-6 (1) loss to former two-time NCAA champion in singles and doubles Blaz Rola.

“Deciding to play college tennis was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” said the left-handed Rola, who played at Ohio State. “Those years living in Columbus taught me so much and I’m so glad I decided to go there. If I had to do it all over again, I would for sure.”

Leading the tiebreaker 6-1, Rola unleashed a powerful forehand return at the center of the baseline at Bourgue’s feet. Bourgue stuck his racket out and the ball flew long ending the match. “I got a crucial point at 2-1 in the breaker and just rolled from there,” he said. “There’s not much more to say about it.”

Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Roberto Maytin of Venezuela will take on the final remaining Americans left in the tournament Robert Galloway and Nathan Pasha in the doubles final to be contested on Sunday.

$50,000 RESULTS – OCTOBER 26, 2018

Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals
[3] C. Ruud (NOR) d K. Majchrzak (POL) 75 75
J. Smith (AUS) d [4] J. Jung (TPE) 76(3) 63
T. Kokkinakis (AUS) d D. King (BAR) 61 64
B. Rola (SLO) d [Q] M. Bourgue (FRA) 64 76(1)

Men’s Doubles – Semifinals
[1] M. Arevalo (ESA) / R. Maytin (VEN) d J. Jung (TPE) / M. Krueger (USA) 75 67(5) 10-5
[4] R. Galloway (USA) / N. Pasha (USA) d D. King (BAR) / N. Rubin (USA) 63 62