Harris Lloyd became the first qualifier to reach the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-finals with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 defeat of 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori
Nishikori on Thursday night became the second big name after US Grand Slam champion Dominic to fall victim to Lloyd. Dominic Thiem was defeated 6-3, 6-4 in the round of 32.
The Japanese star admitted to conceding the first set to focus on his fightback. He said: “Lloyd’s serves were very good and he made the most of his chances in the game. I am not at my 100% yet, but I am proud of my efforts and need to believe in myself more.”
Nishikori is now expected to appear in the Miami Open.
An on-song Rublev made easy work of Marton Fucsovics, sailing past the Hungarian 7-5, 6-2. The Russian extended his record to 23-consecutive match wins in an ATP 500 tournament and faces fellow Russian Aslan Karatsev.
Denis Shapovalov advanced to the semi-finals in his maiden tournament in Dubai, beating Jeremy Chardy 7-5, 6-4.
The pair had contrasting paths coming into Dubai. Chardy made semi-final appearances in Antalya and at an Australian warm-up event in Melbourne, and he was also a quarter-finalist in Rotterdam.
Meanwhile, Shapovalov lost both of his matches at the ATP Cup, crashing out of the Australian Open in the third round then winning just one match in Doha.
In a balanced match, it was Chardy’s double faults at 5-5 on serve and a Shapovalov break at 4-4 in the second set that proved decisive for the Canadian’s victory. The left-handed Canadian won 26 of his 28 points on serve.
When asked about the improvements made to his game, he said: “I’ve focused a lot on my serve, and trying for it to have more variation. We also worked a lot on my footwork and I’m moving well, and when I’m moving well, I feel like everything kind of goes into place.”
Earlier in the day, Karatsev outlasted 16th seed Jannick Sinner 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 in a grueling battle under the sun, entering his first Dubai semi-finals. Sinner moved up 3-0 within the first 10 minutes, but Karatsev dug deep to drag the first set to just over an hour, eventually losing 6-7.
A resurgent Karatsev went on to close the second set 6-3 with a beautiful cross-court backhand just within the hour mark. The Russian fought off two crucial break points to hold for 2-2 in the third set, and served out the match at 5-2, sealing his spot in the semi-finals.
“Since 1998 only one wildcard had reached the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships when Malek Jaziri defeated fellow wild card Stefanos Tsitsipas. That was in 2018, and now we applaud another similar and remarkable achievement by Aslan Karatsev,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak.