Among a trio of upsets, a patient Blake Strode defeated defending champ Carsten Ball 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 on a steamy Thursday to advance to the men's singles quarterfinals of the Fifth Third Tennis Championships at the University of Kentucky's Boone Tennis Center.
"I was much more in counter-puncher mode today," the former Arkansas Razorback star said. As a result, the fifth-seeded Australian slugged wildly at balls that more often than not meant easy points for the unseeded Strode.
"I needed to serve well, too, because I knew there wouldn't be many breaks," said Strode, who broke to open the third set and held serve to win out.
"The difference I think was I got a lot of serves back. (Ball's) game is not suited to having to play many points because of his big serve. ... So I knew he wouldn't want to get into long rallies," Strode said.
Strode will play another giant-killer in Pierre-Ludovic Duclos of Canada on Friday. Duclos eliminated fourth-seeded Fritz Wolmarans of South Africa 6-2, 6-4 Thursday.
"I had nothing to lose," Duclos said.
Former Lexington semifinalist but unseeded Jamie Baker of Great Britain defeated third-seeded Chris Guc cione 7-5, 7-6 (4) and will face Greg Oulette on Friday.
On the women's side, No. 4 Tetiana Luzhanska of Ukraine and No. 8 Ling Zhang of Hong Kong advanced, but No. 7 Heidi El Tabakh fell to former Southern Cal star Amanda Fink 7-5, 6-2.