Friday, August 9, 2019

Daniel, Dzumhur, Escobedo survive Aptos thrillers

Ernesto Escobedo, shown in 2018, saved two match
points in a 7-6 (2), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (12) win over fellow
American Bjorn Fratangelo to reach the quarterfinals
in Aptos, Calif., for the second consecutive year.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Three consecutive matches on Center Court.
   Three straight matches decided by third-set tiebreakers.
   Three matches in a row in which the winner saved match points.
   Each match longer and more dramatic than the last.
   It might have been the wildest day in the 32-year history of the Nordic Naturals Challenger, the longest-running men's tournament at that level in the United States, in Aptos, Calif.
   Or, for that matter, in any tournament.
   Surviving the marathons on Thursday at the Seascape Sports Club were, in order, third seed and local favorite Taro Daniel of Japan, top-seeded Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and unseeded Ernesto Escobedo of West Covina in the Los Angeles area.
   Daniel escaped two match points and edged Michael Redlicki, a 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) left-hander originally from Chicago, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours, 18 minutes to reach the Aptos quarterfinals for the first time since 2015.
   Daniel, 26, has an unusual background, to say the least. He was born in New York to an American father, Paul, and Japanese mother, Yasue. The family moved from New York to Japan when Taro was an infant and to Spain when he was 14. Paul Daniel grew up in Santa Cruz, near Aptos.
   Then Dzumhur saved three match points and nipped Lukas Lacko of Slovakia 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (9) in a 2-hour, 20-minute battle of former top-50 players. Dzumhur converted his second match point.
   Finally, Escobedo survived two match points in a 7-6 (2), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (12) triumph over countryman Bjorn Fratangelo in 2 hours, 47 minutes to reach the Aptos quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. Fratangelo saved six match points before succumbing. There were no service breaks in the match.
   Order was restored in the featured night match as second seed and 2012 Aptos champion Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles region defeated British left-hander Liam Broady, the 2017 runner-up as a qualifier, 7-5, 6-1.
   Today's quarterfinal matchups (with rankings in parentheses) are Dzumhur (109) against Escobedo (214), fourth-seeded Dominik Koepfer (122) of Germany versus seventh-seeded Marcos Giron (157) of Thousand Oaks in the L.A. region, Daniel (119) against sixth-seeded Egor Gerasimov (146) of Belarus, and Johnson (93) versus 10th-seeded Go Soeda (173) of Japan.
   Five quarterfinalists – Dzumhur, Johnson, Daniel, Soeda and Escobedo – have cracked the top 100 in the world. Johnson and Dzumhur have reached the top 25, and Soeda has broken into the top 50.
   Here are the Aptos singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

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