- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) - Top-seeded Steve Johnson advanced to the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships quarterfinals Wednesday, beating Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, 6-1, 6-4.

Coming off a career-best finish in a Grand Slam, the 26-year-old Johnson needed just 20 minutes to win the first set and 59 to close the match. It was his first on Newport’s grass this week after the top four seeds were given byes.

Johnson was one of six Americans in action Wednesday on the grounds of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Defending champion Rajeev Ram, a two-time winner in Newport - also in 2009 when he won his only other career ATP tourney - lost to seventh-seeded Dudi Sela of Israel, 6-3, 6-4.

Second-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia rallied past Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

Ranked No. 25 on the tour coming into the week, Johnson served an ace on the first point of the match and lost just one point in the third through fifth games of the opening set.

He had it a little tougher in the second, but continued his solid season on grass, raising his record to 11-3.

“I just served well in the first,” he said. “He returned well in the second. I just think that makes it tricky when you don’t have to play any points in the first.”

Johnson lost in the fourth round to Roger Federer at Wimbledon. Johnson won his first career singles title, also on grass, at Nottingham last month.

“I’m comfortable, but I’m still uncomfortable,” he said about the surface. “There’s a lot to learn, a lot to improve on. That’s why I’m here to try and keep getting better.”

He said he’s looking forward to heading to the Olympics in Rio next month and - unlike other athletes - hasn’t considered not attending.

“I never thought about not going,” he said.

Ram said he had trouble with the breezy conditions and didn’t play well.

“I felt he dealt with the conditions really well, had good energy the whole way through and he was just better than me today,” he said.

John Isner was the last to win consecutive Newport titles, doing it in 2011 and ‘12.

American Donald Young, the No. 8 seed, joined Johnson in advancing Wednesday by defeating fellow countryman Stefan Kozlov, 6-0, 6-4.

Americans Brian Baker and Dennis Novikov also were ousted.

Baker lost to No. 4 seed Marcos Baghdatis of Cypriot, 6-4, 6-3. Novikov lost to Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

In other play, Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli beat Australian John-Patrick Smith, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.


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