Acapulco roundup: Nadal cruises; Isner to face Fritz in all-U.S. semi

Acapulco roundup: Nadal cruises; Isner to face Fritz in all-U.S. semi

Also, Grigor Dimitrov finally defeated his good friend Stan Wawrinka for the first time since 2016.

In his quarterfinal match from Acapulco, John Isner survived a tough test from Tommy Paul, ultimately advancing 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2. Isner has played 42 times as many tiebreaks in his career than Paul, and benefitted from his extensive experience in the first set.

Paul bounced back and played a strong second set, but fell short in the third, coughing up two breaks of serve. Against Isner, that’s two too many.

"I think that's the best set I've played all year," Isner told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj. 

Isner, the top-ranked American man, will face off against second-ranked American Taylor Fritz for a spot in the final. 

Fritz underwhelmed to start the season, opening with a 3-5 record, but has caught fire in Acapulco. In his third win of the week, he dispatched the in-form New York Open champion Kyle Edmund with ease, 6-3, 6-4. Fritz swung for the fences throughout the match, connecting on laser-like groundstrokes that kept Edmund off balance and on his heels. Fritz also returned well, breaking the big-serving Brit five times. Fritz is now 2-0 against Edmund, whom he also beat in Eastbourne en route to his first career title. 

In the third match by the beach, Grigor Dimitrov finally defeated his good friend Stan Wawrinka, ending a five-match losing streak to the Swiss, dating back to 2016. Dimitrov played a clean match, while a lethargic Wawrinka gifted the Bulgarian far too many unforced errors. By late in the second set, Wawrinka had committed over 30 unforced errors compared to Dimitrov’s 10.

Beating a friend is always difficult, but beating a friend as talented as Dimitrov six times in a row was too much to ask. Dimitrov admitted he was motivated by his past failures, and Wawrinka was not his best self, but this is still a huge mental victory for the Bulgarian, who will test his luck against Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. 

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In the nightcap, South Korea’s Kwon Soonwoo fulfilled his childhood dream of playing the great Nadal. Kwon, who spent most of last season on the ATP Challenger circuit, has made four consecutive quarterfinals to start 2020. Despite his great form, the flat-hitting Kwon was no match for Rafa. Kwon tried his best to hold the baseline, but the Spaniard, who has an answer for every opposing strategy, hit short and sharp angles to rip Kwon off the court.

Once Kwon realized what it would take to defeat Nadal, he decided to go for broke, ripping every shot as hard as possible. It made for fascinating points, and ridiculous shotmaking, but in the end only sped up his inevitable 6-2, 6-1 suffocation. Kwon's hyper-aggressive strategy earned him eight break point chances, but he was unable to convert any.

Nadal looks as intimidating as ever, and will try to extend his head to head record against Dimitrov to 13-1 in Friday’s semifinal.