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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, October 15, 2021

 
Nikoloz Basilashvili

Nikoloz Basilashvili blasted 17 forehand winners stunning second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 for his first Masters semifinal at Indian Wells.

Photo credit: Getty

Outsiders have turned Indian Wells into a surprise party.

Today, Nikoloz Basilashvili delivered the biggest upset bash of the tournament.

Detonating nuclear drives, Basilashvili shocked second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 scoring the biggest win of his career to burst into his first Masters 1000 semifinal at the BNP Paribas Open.




It is the first Top 3 victory of Basilashvili and sends the 30-year-old Georgian into tomorrow’s semifinals against either Olympic gold-medal champion Alexander Zverev or 31st-seeded Taylor Fritz in tomorrow’s semifinals. Tsitsipas follows top-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who lost to Grigor Dimitrov, in tumbling from the draw. The third-seeded Zverev is the lone Top 10 seed still standing.

Winless in three prior main-draw appearances in the desert and the loser in two previous clashes vs. Tsitsipas, Basilashvili followed a simple game plan: grip and rip and force the Greek to defend.

The Tsitsipas forehand is one of the most dynamic weapons in the men’s game, but Basilashvili sent a bolt of intent smacking a forehand return winner on the opening point and spending the rest of the day drilling just about anything in reach. Basilashvili converted four of five break points and kept his nerve at closing time in a one hour, 54 minute triumph.

The 36th-ranked Basilashvili blasted 17 winners compared to six for his opponent scoring his biggest win since he saved a match point winning the final three games stopping sixth-ranked Roger Federer 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the Doha quarterfinals last March.

The second-seeded Tsitsipas didn’t play poorly today, but he didn’t always play aggressively either and was content to stay back and rally waiting for and implosion from his big-hitting opponent who swings with the force of a man intent on ripping the felt cover off the ball.

That collapse did not come.

In a statement start, Basilashvili banged a forehand return winner on the opening point sparking a love break. The Georgian curled a crosscourt forehand backing up the break dodging a break point in an eight-minute hold.

Jarring pace of Basilashvili’s blasts gave the Greek little time to operate. Basilashvili followed a punishing forehand forward bumping a backhand volley into the open court for the double break and a 4-1 lead.

Tsitsipas began to find his range coaxing an errant backhand to break back then firing through two ace game holding for 3-4.

Wrong-footing the second seed brought Basilashvili triple set point. Basilashvili blasted a forehand winner to finish the 45-minute opener with a flourish.

Tennis Express

Angst erupted as Tsitsipas exploded in a primal scream following a shanked backhand. The French Open finalist failed to exploit a love-30 lead as Basilashvili held for 1-all in the second set.

The world No. 3 began hitting his forehand with more vigor and targeting the Georgian’s forehand, which is predicated on a more elaborate backswing than his backhand, at times to good effect. Tsitsipas coaxed successive errors breaking for a 3-1 lead and quickly consolidated for 4-1.

A pair of biting backhand returns set Tsitsipas up with break point and set point. Dancing around his backhand, Tsitsipas rapped a forehand winner down the line sealing the second set to force a decider after 80 minutes of play.




Basilashvili broke to start the third set and denied a couple of break points confirming the break for 2-0.

Moving to his right, Tsitsipas slipped and tumbled to the court chasing a forehand—and remarkably still won that point as Basilashvili brain cramped and didn’t play his reply. The Greek arose from that crash and scored his fourth break of the match to even the decider after four games.

Under the gun again in the seventh game, Tsitsipas spit up his first double fault of the day donating the break and a 4-3 lead to the Georgian after one hour, 52 minutes.

The 29th-seed saved a break point and battled through a near seven-minute hold finding the back edge of the baseline on a crucial exchange as he held for 5-3.

Deadlocked at 30-all, Basilashvili cranked his biggest ace of the day—a 125 mph rocket down the middle—for match point and rattled Tsitsipas’ racquet with a final stinging serve for his first Top-3 career win.

What a difference a year makes. Last fall, Basilashvili staggered through a nightmare end to the 2020 season losing a staggering 19 of 20 sets hed played after the pro circuit resumed from the pandemic in August of 2020. Today, the man who arrived in the desert seeking his first main-draw win now stands one victory from the Indian Wells final.


 

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