The 2nd seed Milos Raonic is through to the quarter-final in Delray Beach, beating Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 36 minutes. The Canadian had "only" 11 aces, facing three break chances and repelling them all to keep his initial shot intact and force the German to repeat that if he wanted to stay in contention.
Stebe fought well but it wasn't enough to keep him longer in the encounter, defending his second serve nicely but suffering one break in each set to propel Milos through. A forehand down the line winner offered Cedrik-Marcel a break chance in the ninth game, denied by a powerful forehand from Raonic who had to play against two more break chances in game 11.
Staying focused, a former world no. 3 fended off both with service winners, securing a break with a forehand down the line winner in the next game to steal the opener 7-5. Milos lost six points on serve in set number two, taking four straight points on the return at 4-3 for a break and sealing the deal with a hold a few minutes later.
Steve Johnson had to find the form on the Challenger Tour in recent months after losing ground in the rankings, gaining momentum again and advancing into the last eight in Delray Beach with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 win over unranked Jack Sock.
Struggling with injuries, Sock finally scored a victory on the main level in the first round, giving his best against Johnson as well before fading from the court in the decider to push a compatriot through. Steve erased four out of six break chances and earned four breaks to cross the finish line following a reliable performance in the decider.
Wasting four break chances at 4-4, Jack got broken in the next game to lose the opener 6-4, initiating a 5-3 advantage in set number two and squandering a set point on serve at 5-4. Nonetheless, Johnson got broken again in game 11 and Sock closed the set with a hold at 30 to bring a decider.
There, Steve played on a high level to move through with a double break for his first quarter-final since Winston-Salem in August. The 6th seed Ugo Humbert avenged a loss to Miomir Kecmanovic from New York last week, beating the Serb 6-4, 7-6 in an hour and 42 minutes for the third quarter-final in 2020.
Ugo saved eight out of ten break chances and produced three breaks to have the upper hand, taking the last four games in the opening set from 4-2 down and pulling a late break back in set number two before fending off a set point in the breaker to emerge at the top in straight sets.
In the clash of two American youngsters, Frances Tiafoe ousted Tommy Paul 7-5, 7-6 in an hour and 46 minutes for the first quarter-final since Antwerp in October. Frances gave serve away only once, overcoming a 5-2 deficit in set number two to get the job done without having to play a decider.
They stayed neck and neck in the opening set until Tiafoe clinched a break with a return winner, securing the set with a service winner a few minutes later for a 7-5. Paul moved in front with a break in game six in set number two, getting broken while serving for the set at 5-3 and allowing Frances to complete the win with a backhand crosscourt winner at 6-4 in the tie break.
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