Former tennis All-American Rhyne Williams took another step forward in his career Thursday, beating former top-10 star Ivo Karlovic to reach his first career ATP-level quarterfinal.
Williams held serve for the whole three set match and broke Karlovic just once, but that was enough for a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3) victory in the second round of the US Men's Clay Court Championship, an ATP 250 event in Houston.
Williams was originally set to play top American Sam Querrey, but the 20th-ranked player withdrew prior to the match with injury. Karlovic, the 2007 champion ranked 136 in the world, was the lucky loser who replaced him in the draw.
Karlovic, who stands 6-foot-10, served a tournament-record 28 aces in the match against Williams, but that was not enough to beat the former Vol.
Williams, ranked 144, is now in his first career quarterfinal this afternoon where he will face another veteran, 35-year old Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain. Ramirez Hidalgo knocked off sixth-seeded Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-2.
While Williams has won a Challenger on hard courts, it's important to note that Williams has already achieved professional success on clay, a surface generally less familiar to American players. All three of Williams' singles titles on the ITF Futures Circuit have come on clay courts.
In Mexico: John-Patrick Smith continued his winning ways in doubles on Thursday night. He and fellow Aussie Sam Groth beat wild cards Carsten Ball and Daniel Garza 6-4, 7-5. Smith is a career-best No. 94 in the doubles world rankings this week.
In Oklahoma: Tennys Sandgren, the top seed at the Oklahoma Futures, had his run end in the second round Thursday. Former Ole Miss Rebel Tucker Vorster defeated him 1-6, 6-2, 6-4. Sandgren will now turn his attention to the series of American Challengers on clay.