Marcos Baghdatis advances, John Isner falls short at ASB Classic
Marcos Baghdatis has stormed into the semifinals of the ASB Classic, defeating 2015 champion Jiri Vesely 6-2 6-4.
In the Cypriot's previous two matches he had to work hard for his victories, but this one came a lot easier, with the match over in 70 minutes.
Baghdatis, a 2006 Australian Open finalist, is known for his spectacular shots, but it was his serve that was the most impressive of this match for him, putting down 12 aces.
Vesely, from the Czech Republic, looked tired out on court, with perhaps the effects of his long three-set match against Rubin Statham the previous day taking its toll.
In Friday's semifinal Baghdatis will play Joao Sousa from Portugal.
In the middle match of the day, John Isner's quest for a third Classic title came to an end after the second-seed was knocked out at the quarterfinal stage by fellow American Steve Johnson.
Despite battling back from a set down, his luck deserted him in the third-set tiebreak against Johnson to lose 6-3 5-7 7-6.
"Credit to Steve, he stayed the course and certainly played better at the end of the match than I did," Isner said.
"I just missed a few easy shots. The first point of the tiebreaker, that sort of set the tone how the end of the match went - it was a lazy volley on my part. I needed to be more alert."
Isner regularly used his big serve to bail him out of trouble, rattling down 19 aces to Johnson's 12, but his frustration was evident as he struggled for consistency around the court.
The 31-year-old twice called for the trainer during the third set, which he put down to early-season rust.
"I just need to get my body used to the pounding of a real match," he added. "Of course, I love playing here but it wasn't meant to be so I'll regroup and see what I can do next week (at the Australian Open)."
It was the seventh meeting between the pair, with Johnson winning for the second-straight time and third in total.
The seventh seed suffered a slip-up late in the second set when consecutive unforced errors allowed Isner back into match.
But he always remained confident of victory.
"He played a good game and I just didn't make the clearest choices on my serve," Johnson said. "But that's life. I felt like I played a better set than me losing 7-5 so I took that with confidence heading into the third."
Johnson will meet another American, Jack Sock, for a place in the final after the fourth-seed recovered from dropping the opening set against Jeremy Chardy to win 5-7 6-4 6-3.
The pair know each other well, having won a bronze medal together in the doubles at the Rio Olympics.
"I feel like I know what he's going to bring and I'm sure he knows what I'm going to bring. So if we do play each other there's no secrets," Johnson said.
In the first quarterfinal, Sousa stormed into the final four with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Dutchman Robin Haase.
It was a clinical display from the Portuguese veteran, who closed out the result in less than an hour in the first quarterfinal at Stanley Street on Thursday.
Haase played well to upset four-time champion David Ferrer in the second round but he was never in the contest against Sousa, who dominated on serve and won three of six break points.
"I was really feeling very good," Sousa said.
"I knew that I had to be aggressive because he's a great player and wants to control every point with his forehand.
"So I knew that I was the one trying to do it, otherwise it would have been difficult.
"He was probably tired from yesterday, he had a great match (against Ferrer), very physically and mentally tough, so I was trying to push him hard from the base line and I made a great match today.
"I was feeling very good and I did it well I think."