(13) Mitchell Krueger (USA) vs. Daniel Elahi Galan (COL)
Head-to-head: First meeting
American Mitchell Krueger has battled his way through to the semifinals of the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach using both his talent and his fighting spirit. The No.13 seed won his third straight 3-set match on Friday, taking out Raymond Sarmiento 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3. Krueger was up a set and a break at one point, but the resurgent Sarmiento pushed him to the brink.
“It was a battle for sure,” said Krueger. “I made it a lot tougher on myself than I needed to, but Ray played really well when he needed to late in the second set. I just tried to settle down as best I could and try not to dwell on the missed opportunities to give myself the best chance. I’m really happy that I was able to recover from that, because it’s not an easy thing to do.”
He now faces Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan, who faced a battle of his own – a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 win over American Christopher Eubanks.
“We’ve practiced quite a bit together at tournaments across the year,” said Krueger about his semifinal opponent. “He’s sold, good on the baseline. Anyone who’s at this stage of the tournament has to be playing pretty well and has a couple matches under their belt. He qualified at the Australian Open, so I know he’s playing well this year.”
Galan’s match also was a back-and-forth affair, with Eubanks having many opportunities in the second set to wrap up a spot in the semis. But Galan hunkered down and found a way to win.
“It was a tough match,” said Galan. “Chris is so good with his serve. I just knew I had to try to put all the returns that I could in the court. The match was so close, he had so many chances, but I was fighting.”
As for the semifinal, he knows he has to keep his foot on the gas to have a shot at the title.
“I think I have to play my game and be offensive – here in the fast courts, you have to always try and control the points.”
(4) Steve Johnson (USA) vs. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (USA)
Head-to-head: First meeting
The only All-American semifinal features two players who came through the college ranks and have success in the pros – USC’s Steve Johnson and University of Virginia’s Thai-Son Kwiatkowski.
Johnson is the No.6-ranked American and was a Bronze Medalist in men’s doubles at the 2016 Olympics. Despite a tough opponent in No.10 seed Bradley Klahn, the USC Trojan powered through 6-4, 6-2.
“I thought I played great today,” said Johnson. “It was the best day I’ve played of the tournament so far, so that’s always promising. I thought I returned extremely well. Any time you can get up breaks early in both sets is important. Brad and I have played a million times, we practice together, play frequently and know each other’s games in and out.”
His semifinal opponent, Kwiatkowski, also had an impressive win – a 7-6(6), 6-4 victory over two-time ATP Tour titlist Denis Istomin.
“Neither of us were returning super well and maybe that’s because we were serving well,” said Kwiatkowski. “The opportunities were very slim.”
When asked about his semifinal opponent, the first words out of his mouth were “I’m a massive underdog.”
“Stevie is one of the best Americans we have right now,” he continued. “I looked up to him a lot because he came through the college system – he owned college. It’s going to be a monumental challenge, but I hope to enjoy the atmosphere again.”