Johnson Fights Through In Memphis
Basilashvili upsets top seed Karlovic on Thursday
Fourth seed Steve Johnson showed impressive resilience in reaching the quarter-finals in Memphis, rallying from a set down on Thursday to defeat qualifier and fellow American Tim Smyczek, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
“I didn’t play my best tennis at the beginning, but I figured it out at the end,” said Johnson. “You can’t always play your A-game and he was doing everything that he needed to do, so I just had to go to Plan B.”
Smyczek appeared primed for the upset in the opening set, saving all four break points against him and breaking Johnson twice to grab the early lead. But the fourth seed shifted the momentum down 3-4 in the second set, winning nine of the final 11 games to take the match.
Johnson improves his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Smyczek to 2-0 and matches his best result in Memphis, a quarter-final showing in 2015.
Next up for the American is Mikhail Kukushkin, who stormed to a 6-3, 6-0 victory over qualifier Darian King. Johnson leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 2-1, but they haven’t played in two years.
Nikoloz Basilashvili scored the biggest upset so far in Memphis, ousting top seed Ivo Karlovic 7-6(2), 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.
“I’m playing really well in general the past month,” said Basilashvili. “I’m in really good shape mentally and physically, and beating a player like Karlovic only gives me confidence for the upcoming matches.”
Both players traded comfortable service holds in the opening set, but Basilashvili went on a six-point run in the tie-break before converting on his second set point. He then earned the first break of the match to lead 4-2 in the second set. Basilashvili easily served out the contest on his first attempt to advance in 69 minutes.
The Georgian picked up his first win over Karlovic, improving his record in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry to 1-2. Basilashvili has been on a hot streak, having defeated World No. 8 Dominic Thiem last week en route to reaching the semi-finals in Sofia (l. Dimitrov). He currently sits at a career-high No. 67 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Next up for Basilashvili is qualifier Matthew Ebden, who defeated #NextGenATP star and last year’s runner-up Taylor Fritz 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. The Aussie, currently No. 490 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after a difficult 2016 that saw him sidelined for seven months due to injury, is through to his first ATP World Tour quarter-final since Atlanta in July 2012.