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Cilic Extends Dominant Form In Delray Beach; Johnson Upsets Lopez

Delray Beach, U.S.A.

Anderson© Alese PechterKevin Anderson is looking to win the Delray Beach title for the second time.

Collegiate tennis is alive at the Delray Beach Open by The Venetian Las Vegas, with three former NCAA standouts advancing to the semi-finals on Friday.

No. 2 seed John Isner, a former All-American at the University of Georgia, led the way with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 comeback victory over countryman Rhyne Williams. Isner fired 18 aces and broke Williams’ serve on three occasions to seal the win in an hour and 42 minutes.

The American advances to the semis in Delray Beach for a third successive year, having fallen to Kevin Anderson in 2012 and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in 2013. He will look to overturn a 0-3 FedEx ATP Head2Head mark against Marin Cilic on Saturday.

The seventh seed Cilic maintained his red-hot form, firing past Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-2, 6-3 in the Delray Beach quarter-finals.

Cilic will vie for a third ATP World Tour final berth in as many weeks. The big-hitting Croat claimed his fourth title on home soil in Zagreb (d. Haas), followed by a run to the final last week in Rotterdam (l. to Berdych).

Cilic polished off Gabashvili in 79 minutes, hammering 12 aces and converting on five of six break points garnered. It was the 25 year old’s 11th straight-set victory in 13 matches since the Australian Open. He edged ahead of Fabio Fognini for most match wins in 2014, with 16, after the Italian fell in the quarter-finals in Rio de Janeiro earlier on Friday.

"Good times are rolling. It's pretty good," exclaimed an enthusiastic Cilic. "This is my first time ever winning two finals in a row and [reaching] a semi-final, so that's huge for me. It's very positive."

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Fourth seed Kevin Anderson, a former University of Illinois standout, rallied from a set down to reach the semi-finals in Delray Beach on Friday, overcoming Marinko Matosevic 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3. The South African reached his first ATP World Tour semi-final of the season and improved to a 12-3 tournament record as he saved four of the five break points he faced and hit 10 aces.

“I’ve played him a couple times before and it’s a battle each time,” Anderson said of Matosevic, who has yet to beat the former University of Illinois standout in three ATP World Tour matches. “I just hung in there and finally got that breakthrough in the second set. It was gusty and it was tough to get a rhythm. I'm in the semis and that's a great feeling.”

The 27-year-old Anderson is bidding to win this ATP World Tour 250 hard-court tennis tournament for the second time, after beating Matosevic in the 2012 final. For a place in the final, he will face qualifier Steve Johnson, who dismissed sixth seed Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-2.

Johnson, a two-time NCAA singles champion at the University of Southern California, is through to his first ATP World Tour semi-final. The 24 year old had upset top seed Tommy Haas in the second round. The No. 142-ranked Johnson will look to record his second win of the season over Anderson, having beaten the South African en route to the Auckland quarter-finals last month (l. to Lu).

"I feel pretty good. I played some good tennis today," said Johnson. "I really felt like I stuck to the game plan and executed really well. In the end, I was able to hold my nerve."

Looking ahead to the clash with Anderson, Johnson said, "He's going to have the experience out there. But I played him tough earlier this year. It's going to be a comfortable match for me because I've practised with Kevin. I'm hoping to go out there and just be confident and ready to go."

It marks the first time three former college players are in the semis of a ATP World Tour event since Johannesburg in 2011, when Anderson, Somdev Devvarman and Izak Van der Merwe advanced as far.

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