Rublev books Indian Wells ATP semi-final clash with Fritz

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INDIAN WELLS: In-form seventh seed Andrey Rublev advanced to the ATP Masters semi-finals at Indian Wells on Friday with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Bulgarian veteran Grigor Dimitrov.

The 24-year-old, ranked seventh in the world, picked up his 13th straight win since Valentine’s Day – a blistering streak that included back-to-back titles in Marseille and Dubai.

He will look to keep the streak alive against American Taylor Fritz, who qualified for the last four for the second year in a row with a 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-1 victory over Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.

Rublev reached the last four without dropping a set, but Dimitrov, 30, ranked 35th in the world, did not go down without a fight. Trailing by a break in the first set, Dimitrov smashed Rublev to level the score at 5-5, sliding a backhand down the line past Rublev to break it at love.

Rublev acknowledged big game nerves may have contributed to the break. “At times you can feel tight, you can feel a little nervous, maybe your opponent can play some good points. These moments are important to be calm,” he said.

“Today, I didn’t control myself. I let out the frustration. In the end, I create problems for myself. In the end, it almost cost me a set. But Rublev, who had been broken four times en route to the quarterfinals, quickly regrouped and won the next two games, closing the set with an ace.

With a set in hand, Rublev was rolling. He won five straight games to take a 5-1 second lead. Unable to capitalize on a match point against Dimitrov’s serve, he fended off a break point to close it on his own serve in the next game.

“I played very well,” said Rublev, who dropped just seven points on his first serve in the match. Dimitrov was unable to replicate the semi-final he staged here last October, when the tournament was moved from its usual March slot due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Rublev will face another 2021 semi-finalist in Fritz, whose 14 aces helped him recover after a shocking service game cost him the second set. “I knew I was going to have a lot of nerves today, it’s a huge game,” Fritz said.

“I kind of forgot how to play tennis there during a match in the second set,” added Fritz, who double faulted three in a row as he was broken at love to trail 5-3 on the way to abandoning the set.

“I have no idea what it was,” said Fritz, who managed to win the first five games of the third set before Kecmanovic managed to hold serve and force Fritz to serve him – which he did with a game of love and an ace on match point.

“I told myself to regroup, do the same thing I did in the second set, take care of my serve, earn those break points. That’s what I did,” said Fritz, who is the first American to make back-to-back semifinals at Indian Wells since Andy Roddick in 2009-10.

Fritz said he expected “a lot of big hits” against Rublev, a rival from their junior days.

“I’m going to have to step it up from the baseline,” he said. The contenders for Saturday’s other semi-final have already been set, with 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal on a 19-0 winning streak to start 2022 to face fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, aged 18 years old.

Nadal beat Australian Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (7/0), 5-7, 6-4 in a tumultuous brawl on Stadium Court on Thursday, when Alcaraz beat defending champion Cameron Norrie of Great Britain 6- 4, 6-3.

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