* Newport Beach, USA, $150,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : A beautiful resort of Newport Beach Tennis Club had the opportunity to host a Challenger event for the first time and the organizers gathered a nice field of players, including Kei Nishikori who choose this event for his first comeback stop after being sidelined since summer with a wrist injury.
The Japanese lost in the opening round to Dennis Novikov but we still had decent quarter-final line-up, led by young Americans. 20-year-old Reilly Opelka advanced to his fourth Challenger semi-final and the second of the season after a 7-5 6-4 win over Matthias Bachinger in an hour and 19 minutes. Opelka fired 10 aces and he defended his second serve nicely to face just one break point in the 10th game of the opening set, keeping the pressure on the German who was broken once in each set to end on the losing side.
Nothing could separate the rivals in the first nine games and Bachinger had that set point at 5-4, only to be denied by a good serve&forehand combo from Reilly. The American found the way to break his rival in the next game and he closed the set on own serve a few minutes later.
Carried by this momentum, Opelka lost just 5 points on serve in set number two, waiting patiently for a chance on the return. It appeared in game 7 when he broke with a forehand down the line winner and the match was in his hands after another forehand winner in game 10, booking his place in the last 4.
Back in the opening week of the season, Noah Rubin defeated Taylor Fritz in the final of Noumea Challenger, and the young American served a revenge here in Newport Beach, beating Rubin 6-3 6-2 in an hour and 9 minutes for his third consecutive semi-final at this level. Taylor kept everything under control in his service games, saving the only break point he faced to stay unbroken, and he won 45% of the return points, creating nine break points and converting six to dominate the scoreboard.
The first set was a close one and it was decided when Taylor broke in game six to take a 4-2 lead after a poor forehand from Noah. He completed the set with a volley winner in game nine and he continued to push Rubin on the return in set number two, creating no less than six break points in the opening game.
Noah gave his best to avoid the break and bring the game home but he had to give serve away after another easy forehand error. Taylor fends off a break point in game four to remain in front and he had the opportunity to grab the win in game seven, with a match point on Noah's serve.
Rubin saved it with a cross court backhand winner but Fritz sealed the deal on his fifth match point in game eight when his opponent made another unforced error. Christian Garin had a rough 2017 behind him, unable to find a right form or to keep a decent position in the rankings, and he had to qualify for the main draw here in Newport Beach.
He did that and everything became much easier for him, advancing to his first Challenger semi-final since Bangkok 2 event in January 2017 after a hard-fought 5-7 6-2 6-3 win over Darian King in 2 hours and 2 minutes. 21-year-old who trains at Nadal's academy at Mallorca had to give his best in order to emerge as a winner, saving eight out of 10 break points he faced and seizing every chance he had got on the return, breaking King four times to find himself in the last four.
Darian had the better start, creating a 4-2 gap with a break of serve in game five but Christian bounced back in style, winning 13 out of the next 14 points to climb his way back to a 5-4 lead. Still, his efforts were in vain as Darin broke again in game 11 to seal the set with a hold at 30 in the next game.
Garin found a range on the return in set number 2, scoring commanding breaks in games four and eight to grab the set and build the momentum before the decider. There, he saved two break points and took King's serve in game six on only break point he earned to gain the lead and clinch the win with a hold in game nine.
Bradley Klahn also stayed on the title course after a 7-6 6-1 win over talented Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in an hour and 20 minutes. Bradley hit 11 aces and he saved three out of four break points to limit the damage in his games.
Miomir served at 71% but he failed to make an impact with his initial shot, dropping 45% of the points in his games to lose serve four times from seven chances Klahn created. It was a competitive first set and it lasted for an hour, with chances for both to take it.
Bradley saved three break points in the opening game to avoid an early setback and they traded breaks in the next two games to remain neck and neck. Miomir saved two set points in game 10 and another four in the tie break, coming back from 3-6 down to 7-7 before Klahn scored a crucial mini-break in the 15th point to seal the set a few moments later.
He was the dominant figure in set number two, spending just one point in his games and breaking Kecmanovic three times to secure the win without spending too much time on the court. The Serb managed to hold after four deuces in game three but he faded from the court after that, losing 16 of the last 17 points to end on the losing side. Quarter-final results: