Red-hot Rublev books Indian Wells semis duel vs Fritz
In-form seventh seed Andrey Rublev powered into the Indian Wells ATP Masters semifinals on Friday (Saturday, Phl time) with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Bulgarian veteran Grigor Dimitrov.
The 24-year-old, ranked seventh in the world, notched his 13th straight match win since Valentine’s Day -- a hot streak that included back-to-back titles at Marseille and Dubai.
He’ll try to keep the streak alive against American Taylor Fritz, who advanced to the last four for the second straight year with a 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-1 victory over Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic.
Rublev has reached the last four without dropping a set, but the 30-year Dimitrov, ranked 35th in the world, didn’t go down without a fight.
Trailing by a break in the first set Dimitrov broke Rublev to level the score at 5-5, sliding a backhand down the line past Rublev to break him at love.
Rublev acknowledged that big-match nerves may have contributed to the break.
“Some moments you can feel tight, you can feel a bit nervous, maybe your opponent can play good couple of points. These moments is important to be calm,” he said.
Today I didn’t control myself. I let frustration go out. In the end I make problems to myself. In the end it’s almost cost me a set.”
But Rublev, who had been broken four times on the way to the quarters, quickly regrouped and won the next two games, closing out the set with an ace.
With a set in hand, Rublev was rolling. He won five straight games to take a 5-1 lead in the second.
Unable to capitalize on a match point against Dimitrov’s serve, he fended off a break point to close it out on his own serve in the next game.
“I played really well,” said Rublev, who dropped just seven points on his first serve in the match.
Dimitrov was unable to duplicate the semi-final run he put together here last October, when the tournament was moved from its usual March slot because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now Rublev will take on another 2021 semi-finalist in Fritz, whose 14 aces helped him recover after a shaky service game cost him the second set.
“I knew I was going to be dealing with a lot of nerves today, it’s a huge match,” Fritz said.
“I kind of forgot how to play tennis there for one game in the second set,” added Fritz, who was broken at love to trail 5-3 on the way to dropping the set.
He roared back with a vengeance, winning the first five games of the third set before Kecmanovic managed to hold serve and force Fritz to serve it out, which he did with a love game and an ace on match point.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I then was able to mentally pull myself back together and regroup and play a really solid third set,” said Fritz, who is the first American man in back-to-back Indian Wells semi-finals since Andy Roddick in 2009-10.
The contenders for Saturday’s other semi-final have already been set, with 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, riding a 19-0 winning streak to start 2022, to face 18-year-old fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz.
Nadal defeated Australian Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (7/0), 5-7, 6-4 in a tempestuous Stadium Court tussle on Thursday, when Alcaraz beat defending champion Cameron Norrie of Britain 6-4, 6-3.