Friday, August 9, 2019

Escobedo ousts top seed Dzumhur in Aptos quarters

Ernesto Escobedo, serving in Aptos last year, extended his winning
streak to 10 matches. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Resurgent Ernesto Escobedo of West Covina in the Los Angeles area outlasted top-seeded Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 today in the quarterfinals of the $81,240 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club in Aptos, Calif.
   The unseeded Escobedo, ranked No. 214 after climbing to a career-high No. 67 in 2017, broke serve in the last game when Dzumhur sprayed a forehand.
   Escobedo, a hard hitter who began working with former top-20 player Jan-Michael Gambill in March, extended his winning streak to 10 matches. He won an $81,240 tournament in Granby, Quebec, two weeks ago for his first Challenger title in three years.
   Both Escobedo, 23, and Dzumhur, 27, saved match points and won third-set tiebreakers on Thursday. Escobedo, with his dramatic victory over fifth-seeded Bjorn Fratangelo, earned a main-draw berth in the last Grand Slam tournament of the year by winning the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge.
   Dzumhur also has plunged in the rankings, from a career-high No. 23 in July 2018 to No. 109. But he has reached two quarterfinals on the ATP World Tour this year, stunning then-No. 12 Stefanos Tsitsipas indoors in Rotterdam in February and three-time Grand Slam singles champion Stan Wawrinka on clay in Geneva.
   Escobedo will face his fourth seed in the tournament when he meets No. 4 Dominik Koepfer, a 25-year-old left-hander from Germany, on Saturday after an 11 a.m. doubles semifinal.
   Koepfer, ranked No. 122, beat seventh-seeded Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks in the Los Angeles area 6-1, 6-4.
   Koepfer, who graduated from Tulane in New Orleans, had an outstanding grass-court season in England. He reached the quarterfinals and won $165,571 Challengers in Nottingham and Ilkey, respectively, and advanced to the second round at Wimbledon.
   Escobedo and Koepfer have split two career matches. Escobedo prevailed 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 on an indoor hardcourt in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, and Koepfer won 6-1, 7-5 on an outdoor hardcourt in Houston last year.
   After the Koepfer-Escobedo match, second-seeded Steve Johnson, 29, of Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles region will face sixth-seeded Egor Gerasimov, 26, of Belarus for the first time.
   Johnson, the 2012 Aptos champion, is playing in his first Challenger since March 2018 and second since 2014. He downed 10th-seeded Go Soeda, 34, of Japan 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   Johnson has tumbled from a career-high No. 21 in 2016 to No. 93, but he reached the third round at Wimbledon last month. Soeda won the Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger 10 years ago and advanced to the Aptos semifinals in 2014.
   The 146th-ranked Gerasimov, who ousted defending champion Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round, dispatched third-seeded Taro Daniel, the local favorite from Japan, 6-3, 6-4.
   Daniel was born in New York to an American father, Paul, and Japanese mother, Yasue. The family moved to Japan when Taro was an infant and to Spain when he was 14. Paul Daniel grew up in Santa Cruz, near Aptos.
   The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Gerasimov won his sixth career Challenger singles title in Recanati, Italy, on hardcourts in early July and last year reached two quarterfinals on the ATP Tour, in Los Cabos and Moscow. He defeated three top-60 players, including then-No. 28 Sam Querrey in Los Cabos, en route to the quarters in those tournaments.


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