BARCELONA: Italian 19-year-old Jannik Sinner became the Barcelona Open’s youngest semi-finalist since 2005 after overcoming Russian Andrey Rublev 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) on Friday.
Sinner, ranked 19th in the world, will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas after the Greek second seed defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3.
“I am trying to get better every week,” Sinner said.
“He (Rublev) has played many, many matches already this year and I tried to play my tennis.
“It was difficult to finish it off. I had three break points at 5-5 (in the second set), which I could not convert, but I’m pleased to win in the end,” he added.
Rafael Nadal, who has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, reached the Barcelona last four as an 18-year-old 16 years ago.
Rafael Nadal, who has won 20 Grand Slam single titles, reached the Barcelona last four as an 18-year-old 16 years ago.
On Thursday, Nadal needed to go the distance for the second successive day in Barcelona before beating Japan’s Kei Nishikori to make the last-eight and stay on course for a 12th title at the tournament.
The world number three triumphed 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 over 2014 and 2015 champion Nishikori and next faces Britain’s Cameron Norrie, a fellow left-hander, for a place in the semifinals.
Nadal, who suffered a surprise quarterfinal exit at the Monte Carlo Masters last week, had also required three sets to beat Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka, ranked at 111, in his Barcelona opener on Wednesday.
Former world number four Nishikori, now down at 39 in the rankings, was left to regret converting just two of 13 break points carved out against the man who also beat him in the 2016 Barcelona final.
“I think I played much better than yesterday; that’s a very important thing for me,” Nadal said on court after his 12th win in 14 meetings with Nishikori.
“The level of positive energy was higher, so I’m very satisfied.”
World number 58 Norrie progressed when Belgian eighth seed David Goffin retired with a right leg injury in the second set.
Nadal beat Norrie in their only previous meeting in straight sets in the Australian Open third round in February.
Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the champion in Monte Carlo, eased into the last-eight with a 7-5, 6-3 victory Australian 14th seed Alex de Minaur.
Tsitsipas next faces 11th seeded Canadian Auger-Aliassime who got the better of compatriot Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3.
“I was happy with my level today,” said Auger-Aliassime.
“It’s never easy to play against him and it’s great to have won in straight sets. The next match won’t be easy, a tough challenge.”
Russian third seed Rublev, the runner-up to Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo, claimed a 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 victory over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in two and a half hours.
Rublev, who has a tour-leading 26 wins in 2021, fired 35 winners past the Spanish clay-courter. He has an intriguing quarterfinal against red-hot Italian teenager and 11th seed Sinner who beat fifth seed Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (11/9), 6-2.— AFP