JP Smith continued his remarkable run at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, knocking off Japan’s Tatsuma Ito to reach his first ATP semifinal. It has been a week of firsts for JP. He recorded his first ATP win, his first ATP quarterfinal, and today both he and 27 year old Ito were seeking to reach their first ATP semifinal.
Much like his quarterfinal match yesterday, Smith started well in the first set and broke Ito after a series of uncharacteristic errors from the former ATP World No. 60. Smith consolidated his lead and never looked back with Ito being unable to muster even one break point. Smith faced only three break points all match and was never broken. The tightest game came with JP serving for the set, but his big serve helped him take the game and the first set by a score of 6-3.
In the second set, it was Ito who dictated play early and earned his only break points of the match with Smith serving at 1-2. JP saved all three with serves slicing out wide to the Ito backhand. The players traded holds until Ito served at 4-4 when Smith earned his only break point of the set. Ito won a long rally and eventually the game as the players approached a second set tiebreak. Smith rushed out to the early 1-0 minibreak lead, but was quickly pegged back to 2-2. From there, Ito won five quick points in succession to level the match at 63 672.
The opening stage of the deciding set was marked by big serving, as both returners won just six total points in the first six games. With Smith serving at 3-3, Ito mounted a spirited charge forcing three deuces, but Smith’s attacking net play helped him get the hold. In the next game it was Smith who had a chance to break, and making no mistake, he forced an Ito forehand error and moved to one game from the final.
Serving the match out to love and with his 63 672 63 victory, Smith booked his place in the Newport semifinal where he will face American Rajeev Ram. The two have met twice before, with each player recording a straight sets victory. The match will be played on Saturday, and full information and the order of play is available at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships website.
UPDATE: Smith lost to Ram 64 764 in the semifinal. It was a great week for JP earning 90 ATP points and he will be ranked in the top 135 when new Emirates ATP Rankings come out on Monday. He travels tomorrow to the $100K Granby, Canada Challenger.