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The latest: Sarasota Open semifinals resume after brief rain delay

Tennys Sandgren, a 25-year-old American, warms up before his semifinal match against France’s Vincent Millot at the Sarasota Open on Saturday.
Tennys Sandgren, a 25-year-old American, warms up before his semifinal match against France’s Vincent Millot at the Sarasota Open on Saturday. dwilson@bradenton.com

The latest from the penultimate day of the Sarasota Open on Saturday:

8:11 p.m.

An all-American final is set at the Sarsaota Open. Frances Tiafoe, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, outlasted Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6, in a nearly three-hour match at United Tennis Academy to conclude a Saturday of action at James T. Driscoll Stadium Centre Court.

Melzer, a former Top 10 player, frustrated Tiafoe with his mobility and nearly forced the American to blow a solid lead during the second tiebreaker. Tiafoe led 5-2 before Melzer battled back to tie the final set at 5-5. Tiafoe, though, responded with back-to-back points to punch his championship ticket.

“I won by nothing,” Tiafoe said. “He’s going to be back in the top 100 and playing really good tennis. It was really high quality I thought.”

Tiafoe will meet fellow American Tennys Sandgren in the final Sunday, which should start sometime between 3-4 p.m. The final day of the open will begin at 1 p.m. with the doubles final, which includes Melzer.

Melzer will be teamed up with Scott Lipsky of the United States, and will take on American Stefan Kozlov and Canadian Peter Polansky with the doubles title on the line.

5:44 p.m.

The final match of the day at the Sarasota Open is underway and Frances Tiafoe is out to a 4-3 lead in the opening game after breaking Austria’s Jurgen Melzer for a second time. A win for Tiafoe, who’s the tournament’s No. 3 seed, would set up an all-American final after Tennys Sandgren punched his ticket earlier during the day.

4:54 p.m.

Despite dropping the second game in a hurry after the rain delay, American Stefan Kozlov and Canadian Peter Polansky rallied to finish off a 6-3, 1-6, 10-3 win in the Sarasota Open semifinals. With Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez and New Zealand’s Michael Venus, the No. 3 seed, going down, the champion will be something of a Cinderella win the winner being unseeded. Kozlov and Polansky will meet Jurgen Melzer and Scott Lipsky on Sunday at either 1 p.m. or sometime between 3-4 p.m. Timing will depend how Melzer fares in his singles semifinal later this evening.

The quick work for Kozlov and Polansky keeps things on track for this evening. Melzer and Frances Tiafoe, the No. 3 seed in the singles draw, should have their semifinal underway by 6 p.m.

4:22 p.m.

We’re back underway at United Tennis Academy after a brief rain delay. This should push things back slightly for the final match of the day between American Frances Tiafoe and Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, but if Stefan Kozlov and Peter Polansky close out the match in two sets then the final match still could be underway by 5 p.m.

4:06 p.m.

Rain has halted the doubles semifinal here at United Tennis Academy. The team consisting of American Stefan Kozlov and Canadian Peter Polansky took the first set 6-3. They’re knotted with Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez and New Zealand’s Michael Venus, 1-1, in the second. The trailing team is the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

The forecast pegs the chances of rain at 40 percent through the rest of the afternoon.

2:07 p.m.

Tennys Sandgren is into the semifinals, taking down Vincent Millot, 6-4, 6-1. It’ll be the third ATP Challenger Tour final for the 25-year-old American since November after only reaching a championship round once in his career before then.

Sandgren will meet either fellow American Frances Tiafoe or Austria’s Jurgen Melzer in tomorrow’s final. The singles championship will begin either at 1 p.m if Tiafoe wins or closer to 4 p.m. if Melzer does because of the Austrian’s place in the doubles championship.

The other doubles semifinal will start at 3 p.m. Saturday. The second singles semifinal should still start somewhere between 5-6 p.m.

Sandgren finds himself playing the best tennis of his career about three years removed from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip in 2014. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) currently ranks him as the No. 156 singles player in the world, Sandgren’s highest career ranking.

“I’ve been healthy now for about a year and a bit. I’m playing good tennis,” Sandgren said. “My ranking is going up and having fun out here.”

Hip surgery derailed Sandgren at the worst possible time. He reached his first Challenger Tour final only a few weeks after injuring his hip and a few weeks after that he had to have surgery.

The surgery sidelined Sandgren for about seven weeks and the injury made a return to playing his style even tougher. He values his movement to play a defensive style. With certain slides and cuts all causing pain to shoot through his lower body, he couldn’t play the way he wanted.

“It was really frustrating,” Sandgren said. “I was playing well. I was playing my best tennis.”

Three years later, he’s finally exceeded the career-bests he hit around the time of his injury. Even if he loses Sunday, Sandgren will vault up to at least about No. 145.

At 25, Sandgren feels he finally understands his body. He trains in a way to match his style and maximize his talent. It may have taken him longer than he hoped, but Sandgren is finally arriving.

“I’m hitting career-highs right now,” Sandgren said. “My high for a few months ago was about 180. I’m climbing back up there.”

12:22 p.m.

Singles semifinals are underway at United Tennis Academy with American Tennys Sandgren — yes, it is pronounced like “tennis” — taking on France’s Vincent Millot. Both are somewhat unlikely semifinalist at James T. Driscoll Stadium Centre Court with the 25-year-old Sandgren reaching Saturday after springing a second-round upset on No. 4 seed Adam Pavlasek of the Czech Republic and then climbing through the quarterfinals in a walkover when fellow American Denis Kudla was forced to withdraw from the ATP Challenger Tour tournament because of the flu.

At 31, Millot is one of the oldest players at United Tennis this week and will have a chance to drop one of the other young Americans he raved about Friday after he stunned top-seed Jared Donaldson of the United States in the quarterfinals.

Sandgren is theoretically the slight favorite going by Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings. The Tennessean is the No. 156 singles player in the world. Millot is ranked 170.

2Americans in the Sarasota Open singles championship Sunday. Tennys Sandgren will meet No. 3-seed Frances Tiafoe at United Tennis Academy.

The first semifinal definitely draws some parallels to the second, which won’t begin before 5 p.m. and could wind up starting closer to 6 p.m. In that one another young American will go up against a veteran foreigner. Frances Tiafoe, a 19-year-old American, will go up against Jurgen Melzer, a 35-year-old from Austria.

Between the two singles matches, the final doubles semifinals will be held at James T. Driscoll Stadium. American Stefan Kozlov and Candian Peter Polansky will meet the No. 3-seeded team of Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez and New Zealand’s Michael Venus. That match should begin at 3 p.m. The winner will face Melzer and the United States’ Scott Lipsky in the doubles final Sunday.

David Wilson: 941-745-7057, @DBWilson2

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