Matosevic’s dream run continues
Marinko Matosevic has achieved by far the best ATP result of his career with a semifinal appearance in Delray Beach. Compatriot Bernard Tomic was not so lucky.
The scene of Lleyton Hewitt’s first-ever international title triumph is now proving a happy hunting ground for a far less celebrated Australian tennis player.
Riding an 11-match hot streak, Melbourne battler Marinko Matosevic stormed into his maiden ATP semifinal with a three-set upset win over Ernests Gulbis at the Delray Beach International.
While seeded countryman Bernard Tomic bombed out of the tournament, Matosevic blasted past Gulbis – the 2010 champion – 3-6 6-1 6-1 in one hour, 32 minutes to move to within one tantalising win of a dream final appearance.
Hewitt reigned as an 18-year-old at Delray Beach back in 1999 when the tournament was held on clay.
Thirteen years on and Matosevic is revelling on the Florida hard courts at the $US442,500 ($A410,000) tour event.
The 26-year-old journeyman – who has yet to progress beyond the first round in 13 grand slam starts – had only won three previous main-draw matches at ATP level.
But he has already doubled that tally this week after also winning three qualifying matches just to make it into the 32-man draw.
“It feels good, especially coming through qualifying because it feels like I really earned it,” Matosevic said.
“The conditions were really tough and the wind was really getting me down in the first set. I just wasn’t making enough balls and returns.
“I just let him beat himself in the end.”
Matosevic won 33 of his 38 first-serve points and capitalised on five of 10 break opportunities to eliminate Gulbis and land a golden opportunity to progress to his first ATP final.
The Victorian will play unseeded Dudi Sela in the last four, ironically after losing to the Israeli in the first round last year when also a qualifier at Delray Beach.
Matosevic lost in the opening round in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Burnie this year before starting his roll with success at a low-key Challenger event on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast last month.
His run in Florida will guarantee Matosevic – currently the world No.173 – rises above the 167th-ranked Hewitt and into the top 150 at least.
Victory over Sela would thrust him into a final showdown with American top seed John Isner – who thrashed Tomic 6-3 6-2 in his quarterfinal on Saturday – or potentially former world No.1 Andy Roddick.
Isner clubbed nine aces in his 56-minute dispatch of Tomic, while Sela surprised German fifth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4 6-7(7) 6-0 in the first quarterfinal.