With the Grandstand crowd chanting “USA” during his second-set tiebreaker, Steve Johnson recorded an American achievement with a 6-3, 7-6(6) third-round victory over seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
By reaching the Western & Southern Open quarterfinals, he will become the highest ranked American man next week, surpassing John Isner.
“John has held that spot for a while, and I'm just glad that there are a bunch of Americans pushing towards the top, you know,” Johnson said. “It's not a one-person effort. It's a group effort. We just try our best to win as many matches as possible.
Fresh off his bronze medal doubles performance with Jack Sock at the Olympics, Johnson fended off four set points in the second set to get off the court in straight sets against Tsonga.
“It is different being here kind of with that atmosphere of winning a bronze medal,” Johnson said. “You don't realize how big it is until you come back, that everybody is so happy for you.”
All-American Facts: Johnson is ranked No. 23 this week, while John Isner is ranked No. 22. Johnson is the first American quarterfinalist since 2013, the year Isner made the finals.
KERBER, WOMEN’S SEEDS ADVANCE
Angelique Kerber, world No. 2, is still adjusting to court and weather conditions after her quick turnaround from her silver medal performance at the Rio Games last week. On Thursday, she strung together a close straight-set victory, defeating 20th-ranked Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 7-6(5), 6-4.
I think we both played really tough,” Kerber said. “The conditions were hard to play in because it was very hot and the courts are faster than I played last week in Rio. I’m happy to manage this in two sets instead of going to a third set.”
Kerber now faces another top-20 opponent in 12th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. They have already faced three times this year with Kerber winning twice at Brisbane and Stuttgart. Suarez Navarro won their most recent meeting 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 on grass court.
ANOTHER MASTERS 1000 QF FOR DIMITROV
With his 6-4, 6-4 win over second-seeded Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov has now reached back-to-back quarterfinals at ATP Masters 1000 events after making his first one of the year in Toronto two weeks ago.
Dimitrov, who has been ranked as high as eighth but enters the week ranked 34th, said he is not ready to say he has turned the corner in his summer but likes his current path.
“I don't want to talk about any corners or anything, but things seem to be in the right way right now,” Dimitrov said. “I’m playing good tennis. (I’ve) been working well, on a good path.
“All these things are for sure adding up, and I just want to make sure I keep doing it now every week.”
Dimitrov has now defeated Wawrinka four consecutive times over the last three years. Dimitrov won 92 percent of his first serves and broke Wawrinka once in each set en route to the victory. It was his second top-10 win of the year.
“We know where we're going to serve, how we're going to play,” Dimitrov said. “I think it comes down to the nerves, also at some point mentally.”
Historically notable in Cincy? Dimitrov is the first Bulgarian man to reach the quarterfinals. This is his first appearance in the Cincinnati quarterfinals after reaching the third round in 2013 and 2015.
— Borna Coric, the 19 year old from Croatia, defeated Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-3 to earn his way into the quarterfinals to become the first teenager in an ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal since Ernests Gulbis made the quarterfinals in Cincinnati in 2008.
— The winning continued for Simona Halep. The 2015 Cincinnati finalist ran her winning streak to 12 matches with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Australian qualifier Daria Gavrilova. Halep was efficiently on and off the court in 53 minutes.
— One man was through to the quarterfinals without stepping on the court Thursday: No. 8 seed Dominic Thiem. He received a walkover when Gael Monfils withdrew from the tournament Wednesday with a back injury. It marks Thiem’s third career Masters 1000 appearance.
— Andy Murray recorded his 600th career ATP World Tour victory, defeating Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-3, 6-2. He has also notably won 20 consecutive matches, including his run to the Wimbledon title and Olympic gold. The top men's seed plays Bernard Tomic of Australia in the quarterfinals.
— Garbine Muguruza’s run to the quarterfinals is her best career appearance at Cincinnati by far. Prior to this year, she not made it out of the first round in three appearances. Now as world No. 3, she is a quarterfinalist after a 7-5, 6-1 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
— Agnieszka Radwanska is into the Cincinnati quarterfinals for the fourth time in her career, matching her career-best performance here (2014, 2013, 2012).