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Sam Querrey wins battle of big servers to reach NY Open semifinals

Sam Querrey with the running forehand return against

Sam Querrey with the running forehand return against Ivo Karlovic in their men's singles quarterfinal match at the New York Open Tennis Tournament on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 at the NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum. Querrey won in straight sets 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4). Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Sam Querrey knew that the hard-serving Ivo Karlovic would be a pain to play, and he was right. But he also knew if he took care of his own serve he would have a chance to win his quarterfinal on Friday. He was right again.

Querrey never faced a break point, and while he failed to convert the two he had against Karlovic, Karlovic never even reached a deuce point against him. Querrey lost only four points on his first serve in a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) win that put him in Saturday’s semifinals of the New York Open at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.

“I think a lot a people expected a lot of tiebreakers and that’s what we got,” Querrey said. “I was really happy with how I played both tiebreakers. I couldn’t have served much better. I had good rhythm on my serve and that sort of freed me up in the tiebreakers.”

There was hardly anything that could be described as a rally between the two. Karlovic served 15 aces, Querrey 11 and neither player could make service returns with any consistency. In the second set Querrey won a 12-hit rally that seemed like an eternity.

“I used the same racket the entire match because the strings are still fresh,” Querrey said.

In a shorter rally, Querrey netted a backhand crosscourt passing attempt and howled, rally points being so precious in a match like this.

“That’s a backhand I should have made,” he said. “To at least get to 30-all. But he probably would have still held.”

Querrey’s semifinal opponent on Saturday will be Adrian Mannarino, a 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 winner over qualifier Adrian Menedez-Maceiras. It was a drawn-out, baseline rally affair that took two hours and thirty minutes to decide. Mannarino plays almost a delicate game, relying on positioning and his speed. He is the 25th-ranked player in the world, and the highest-ranked player never to have won an ATP event. He’s lost four finals.

He’s also a bit picky about his rackets, showing up on court with only two because he’s unable to obtain more of that particular model. His racket sponsor stopped producing them, so he had to go on-line and buy them.

Mannarino has had perfect success against Querrey, beating him in all three meetings on hardcourt, a surface that would seem to favor Querrey.

In the evening matches, Kei Nishikori, making his first ATP main draw appearance of the season after recovering from a wrist injury, made it through to the semifinals with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Radu Albot, the 28-year-old from Moldova who took out John Isner in the previous round for his first- ever win over a top-20 player. And he continued to have some surprising support in the stands.

Albot made it difficult on Nishikori in the first set, controlling the majority of the points and gaining a strong foothold by winning a duel of broken serves. He was broken twice, but he broke Nishikori three times. Nishikori’s first serve was a bit off and he found himself on the back foot often, unable to dictate points.

But as Nishikori gained control of his serve in the second set, he also saw Albot starting to misfire. It soon became apparent that the former No. 4 player in the world had the 91st player in world about where he wanted him and he cruised in the deciding third set.

Nishikori will face top-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa, who broke Frances Tiafoe in the ninth game of the deciding set en route to a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory.

Though attendance wasn’t announced, it was a pretty impressive crowd at the Coliseum that included former Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade.

New York Open

Nassau Coliseum

Saturday feature matches

Day Session 1 p.m.

Stadium Court, Semifinals

Sam Querrey (USA) vs. Adrian Mannarino (FRA)

Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson (USA)

vs. Max Mirnyi (Belarus) and Philipp Oswald (Austria)

Night session, 7:30 p.m.

Stadium Court, Semifinals

Kei Nishikori (Japan) vs. Kevin Anderson (South Africa)

Wesley Koolhof (Neth.) and Artem Sitak (New Zealand)

vs. Radu Albot (Moldova) and Nikoloz Basilashvili (Georgia)

New York Sports