Delray Beach Day 4: Isner vs. Soeda, Sock vs. Berankis, Anderson vs. Lu

Americans John Isner and Jack Sock will continue their Delray Beach campaigns on Thursday. Defending champ Kevin Anderson is also looking for a place in the quarterfinals.

(1) John Isner vs. Go Soeda

Isner’s first-round win over Jesse Levine at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships was by no means spectacular, but it was much-needed. The top-seeded American’s beginning of 2013 has been an absolute disaster, in part because of a knee issue that sidelined him from the Australian Open. Isner, who lost his Memphis opener last week to Denis Istomin, leveled his season record at 4-4 after outlasting Levine 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Up next for the world No. 15 is a first-ever meeting with Soeda, who also won a tense three-setter in his opener. In fact, Japan’s No. 2 player saved four match points against 2012 runner-up Marinko Matosevic and recovered from 6-3 down in the final-set tiebreaker to prevail 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6). Soeda is an even 5-5 at the ATP level for the year. This one is up for grabs, but Isner fired 28 aces against Levine and the big man should just barely manage to get another win if he serves at a similar level.

Pick: Isner in 3

(WC) Jack Sock vs. (LL) Ricardas Berankis

Sock and Berankis will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers when the two up-and-comers collide during second-round action on Thursday. Both players are in stellar form at the start of 2013. Sock upset Milos Raonic en route to the Memphis quarterfinals and he took care of Matthew Ebden 6-3, 6-3 on Tuesday. The 20-year-old American owns three of his nine career ATP match victories this season.

Berankis actually lost at the final stage of qualifying to Bobby Reynolds, but he got in when Feliciano Lopez withdrew and he now has an outstanding draw. In fact, there is not a single seed left in the second quarter of the bracket. Berankis, who reached the third round of the Australian Open, cruised past Bjorn Phau 6-1, 7-6(4) in his main-draw opener. Look for the 87th-ranked Lithuanian to withstand Sock’s power with too much defense, especially in what will likely be windy conditions.

Pick: Berankis in 3

Yen-Hsun Lu vs. (6) Kevin Anderson

This will be the first career meeting at the ATP level for Anderson and Lu, but they did square off once at the 2010 Seoul Challenger (also on a hard court). Lu took home the title by defeating Anderson 6-3, 6-4. Anderson, however, is a considerable favorite this time around. The 6’8” South African is in stellar form at the start of 2013 and not even post-Aussie Open minor elbow surgery appears able to stop him. Anderson is 8-2 for the season, which includes a final appearance in Sydney, a fourth-round showing in Melbourne, and a 6-3, 6-4 dismissal of Tim Smyczek on Tuesday.

Lu is playing decent tennis this year and he registers at 68th in the world. Chinese Taipei’s top player has suffered a string of tough losses; in fact, all four of his 2013 setbacks have gone the distance (including one to Gael Monfils in Melbourne that ended 8-6 in the fifth). Lu played his first straight-set match of the season on Tuesday, ousting qualifier Bobby Reynolds 6-3, 7-5. An upset is not out of the question, but Anderson is on fire when healthy and he has to feel right at home as the defending champion.

Pick: Anderson in 2

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