Norrie Reaches Third Straight Tour Quarterfinal In Acapulco

Cameron Norrie (photo: ATP Tour video)

ACAPULCO/WASHINGTON, February 24, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

With seven second-round matches on Wednesday evening’s order of play at the ATP 500 Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco, the quarterfinal lineup has taken focus.

While the top three remaining seeds – No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 4 Rafael Nadal – headlined play in Estadio, out on the Grandstand Caliente.MX, No. 6 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain looked to even his career head-to-head with big-serving American John Isner and to beat the World No. 23 on a hardcourt for the first time. Both competitors were looking to reach the Acapulco quarterfinals for the third time in four years.

Over the course of their two-hour and seven-minute match, the World No. 12 Norrie withstood the 27-ace onslaught of Isner and did something not many have been able to do: he broke Isner’s serve twice – and it was a difference maker in his 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 victory. The British No. 1, who three days earlier won the Delray Beach Open, broke Isner in the seventh game of the final set to go ahead 4-3. Then, he promptly served out the victory, his eighth of the season and sixth straight.

Norrie won 85 percent (51 of 60) of his first-serve points and did not face a break point on his own serve. He outpointed Isner 95-78. While Isner’s 27th ace kept his hopes alive, Norrie served out the match and won on a seventh-shot overhead winner. The victory over Isner represents the highest-ranked player that Norrie has beaten this year. It’s also the first time this season he’s come back to win after losing the first set.

Next, Norrie will face 95th-ranked lucky loser Peter Gojowczyk of Germany in Thursday’s quarterfinal round. Gojowczyk advanced via walkover against No. 2 seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev, who was defaulted for unsportsmanlike conduct at the conclusion of his doubles match Tuesday night for attacking the umpire’s chair while arguing with chair umpire Alessandro Germani.

Medvedev continues pursuit of No. 1 ranking

Top seed Daniil Medvedev raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set and 4-0 in the second set against Pablo Andújar of Spain and coasted to an easy 6-1, 6-2 victory over the 66th-ranked Spaniard in 63 minutes. The victory moved Medvedev one step closer to his first title of the year, which would guarantee him the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings next week.

“I’m lucky two days in a row not to play at midnight like some other guys,” Medvedev said during his post-match comments. “It’s pretty tough conditions, quite humid. Even if we play at night it’s quite hot.”

Indeed, at match time, the temperature in Acapulco exceeded 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) with 76 percent humidity.

“The faster the matches, the better you’re going to feel for the next one,” Medvedev added.

The World No. 2 from Moscow finished with seven aces and 27 winners against just 14 unforced errors, while Andújar hit 10 winners and made nine unforced errors. Medvedev outpointed Andújar 55-29.

“Pablo is a very tough opponent, so I knew that from the first point to the last point I would have to fight, to play my best tennis,” Medvedev said. “I’m happy I was able to [execute] my plan. .It was enough today to win and I’m really happy about it.”

Next, Medvedev will play 103rd-ranked Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, who rallied to upset No. 7 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 56 minutes. Nishioka broke Fritz three times, including twice in the deciding set. Nishioka has won eight of the nine three-set matches he’s played this season.

Nadal achieves personal history with 12th straight win

World No. 5 and fourth seed Rafael Nadal of Spain rolled to his 12th straight victory of the 2022 season with a 6-0, 6-3 win over 130th-ranked lucky loser Stefan Kozlov of the United States in an hour and 16 minutes on Estadio. It’s the first time in Nadal’s storied career that he has begun a season with 12 consecutive triumphs. In 2014, he began with 11 straight wins before losing the Australian Open final to Stan Wawrinka.

Now, after winning back-to-back titles in Melbourne (Melbourne Summer Set and Australian Open) to start the season, Nadal, 35, is into his third straight quarterfinal to start the season. The 24-year-old Kozlov, a quarterfinalist last week at Delray Beach, was attempting to reach his third career final eight.

“A little bit of a strange match,” Nadal said afterward. “Kozlov has a different style than most other players, so you need to be very careful. Sometimes, you are able to win points in a row, but then if you start to play at his rhythm, it’s very difficult because he has great controls from the baseline and he’s very smart.”

Nadal broke Kozlov, whom he shared a practice court with on Monday, three straight times to win the 30-minute opening set. Then, the 21-time Grand Slam champion broke his opponent in the fourth game to push ahead 3-1. However, Kozlov recovered the break in the seventh game, but Nadal broke back in the eight and served out the match at love.

The Spaniard hit 29 winners to 18 unforced errors and converted five of six break-point chances against Kozlov. He outpointed his opponent 52-29.

“Always it’s important to win as quick as possible,” Nadal said, “but the most important thing is to win. Tonight has been straight sets. That’s great news, and I’l try to be ready for tomorrow again against a tough opponent.”

Next, Nadal will play No. 39 Tommy Paul of the United States, who recovered to beat No. 46 Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, 7-6 (6), 2-6, 7-5.

Tsitsipas makes quick work of Wolf

No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas needed just 47 minutes to dispose 209th-ranked qualifier J.J. Wolf of the United States. It was the Greek star’s fastest victory of his career. He lost just 16 total points in the match.

“I would say I was patiently attacking,” said Tsitsipas, who won 89 percent (17 of 19) of his first-serve points and dropped just six points on his serve overall. He converted five of six break points and outpointed Wolf 48-16.

“I wasn’t going for too much, but I also wasn’t going for too little. It felt great out there. It felt like I could control the points from both sides of the court and I felt very much in control throughout the entire match.”

Next, the World No. 4 Tsitsipas will face No. 59 Marcos Giron of the United States, who upset World No. 17 and eighth seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), in two hours and 47 minutes. Giron hit six aces and won 79 percent (54 of 68) of his first-serve points. He outpointed Carreño Busta 120-110 to earn his sixth win of the season.

Top seeds remain alive in doubles draw

The top four seeded doubles teams remain in the chase going into Thursday’s quarterfinal round, led by No. 1 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina. On Wednesday evening, Granollers and Zeballos advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador and Ariel Behar of Uruguay.

Wednesday’s Acapulco results

Thursday’s Acapulco order of play

By the numbers

Rafael Nadal is playing in Acapulco for the sixth time and has won the singles title three times, in his debut in 2005 as the youngest tournament champion (age 18), in 2013, and in 2020 as the oldest champion (age 33).

“Quotable …”

“I made mistakes in the past where I’ve had tantrums on the court. I understand what the player is going through. But, of course, I do not justify his actions.

“He has, with his words that he had in the statement, handled it in a right way. He said he made a mistake and his actions were not appropriate. I think the disqualification decision was not too harsh. I think it was correct under the circumstances.”

– World No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, reacting to the news of Alexander Zverev’s disqualification from the Abierto Mexicano for unsportsmanlike conduct after aggressively swinging his racquet at chair umpire Alessandro Germani following a Tuesday night doubles loss.