Frances Tiafoe battles Tommy Paul today in Delray.
Frances Tiafoe battles Tommy Paul today in Delray.|Andrew Patron / DelRay Beach Open

Americans, including Tiafoe, Paul, Johnson and Sock, take center stage Thursday at the Delray Beach Open

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Yesterday was another stellar day in Delray Beach. Two Americans, Brandon Nakashima, the teenager out of Wake Forest, and 7-foot West Palm Beach native Reilly Opelka won their matches and advanced to the quarters. I picked them both to win. My losers were the fan's winners, however, as Soonwoo Kwon played consistently and outlasted Ryan Harrison with a third set tiebreaker win, and Japan’s #2 Yoshihito Nishioka just grabbed hold of Long Island’s Noah Rubin and strangled him with consistent groundstrokes and few errors. Today looks to have more of the same thrills.

Thursday is highlighted by the second match on Stadium Court, an all-American battle between Frances Tiafoe, coming back from injury, and Tommy Paul, who looks sharp and ready to compete. Paul is doing double duty today, as he and doubles partner Taylor Fritz will play their quarterfinal match not before 4:30, after he’s given suitable rest from his approximately 2:30 PM singles starting time. That match will follow another potentially exciting battle between France’s Ugo Humbert and Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve picked Paul and Humbert to move into the quarters.

Tonight will showcase Stevie Johnson against Jack Sock to the dinnertime crowd, followed by 2nd seeded Canadian Milos Raonic against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. My picks there are Sock, now that he’s gotten off the schneid, and Raonic. It’s not that I don’t believe in Johnson, it’s just that I find his game so off-putting that I can’t imagine another seasoned professional couldn’t figure out that this guy just can’t hit a backhand. Raonic, of course, possesses a monster serve, and if he’s on, he’s a handful for absolutely anybody out there, and has already been ranked as high as #3 in the world.

The heat is on in Delray as the tournament warms up to this weekend’s climax. Come on down and join the fun in the sun!

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