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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, March 5, 2021

Andrey Rublev

A streaking Andrey Rublev edged Jeremy Chardy 7-6(2), 6-7(2), 6-4 to set up a blockbuster Rotterdam semifinal vs. second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Photo credit: ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament Facebook

Scattered seeds and streamlined sightlines are storylines in Rotterdam this week.

Today, the two surviving seeds made stirring stands to set up a blockbuster semifinal.

Nishikori's Dream: I Want to Be a Penguin

Andrey Rublev erased a set point in the opening set fighting off dangerous French qualifier Jeremy Chardy 7-6(2), 6-7(2), 6-4 to advance to the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament final four.

Rublev ripped 15 aces without a double fault extending his ATP 500 winning streak to 18 matches.

The 23-year-old Russian relied on a sound mental game to overcome a series of obstacles in this quarterfinal. In addition to saving set point in the opener, Rublev reset after failing to convert a couple of match points in the second set then held off another Chardy charge in the decider prevailing in a draining two hours, 40 minutes.

The fourth-seeded Russian set up a marquee semifinal vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of the 2020 Hamburg final which Rublev won 7-5 in the third set.

Tennis Express

In the day's first quarterfinal, Tsitsipas battled back from a break down in the decider winning six of the last eight games to subdue Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in an electric encounter.

The second-seeded Tsitsipas raised his 2020 record to 9-1 as he continues his quest to capture an indoor title for the fourth consecutive season.

"He was playing great tennis and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to compete," Tsitsipas said. "I had an amazing 5-0 lead in the second set and that brought a lot of confidence into my game. We had great rallies and the quality of tennis was excellent.

"You need to stay as calm as possible in three-setters. I have won a lot in the past and with experience, it gives me an idea of how to play in these tight moments."

The eighth-ranked Rublev has shown the knack to unleash the timely ace during the surge that has seen him post a 52-11 record since the start of the 2020 season.

Staring down set point at 5-6 today, Rublev snapped off an ace to save it then rolled through the tie breaker to build a one-set lead.

A stubborn Chardy cracked an ace out wide holding for a 4-2 second-set lead.

Jolting power down the line off both wings is a Rublev trademark and it helped him get back into the second set. Rublev ripped a forehand drive volley for break point then crunched a clean backhand down the line breaking back to level the second set after eight games.

Serving to force another tie breaker at 5-6, Chardy slapped a forehand into the net to face 15-30. Rublev backed the Frenchman up with a return off the baseline then belted a backhand down the line for double match point.

A pair of twisting serves, including an ace down the middle, denied both match points. Chardy clubbed successive forehand winners forcing the tie breaker.

When Chardy spit up his seventh double fault to gift the mini break in the tie breaker, Rublev was points away from the semifinals.

Chardy wasn't finished. The French qualifier raced through seven straight points seizing the second set when Rublev netted a diagonal forehand. The Russian spiked a stray ball in anger as Chardy forced a third set after one hour, 54 minutes.

Shrugging off his second-set stumble, Rublev broke to start the final set.  A running Rublev forehand winner down the line cracked out a second straight break for a 3-0 lead. Rublev ran through a love hold stretching his lead to 4-0.

Undoubtedly weary from playing his fourth three-setter of the week, including saving a couple of match points edging compatriot Ugo Humbert in the opening round, the 34-year-old Frenchman found a second wind.

Chardy smacked a deep return down the middle to break back in the sixth game then held after deuce to narrow the gap to 3-4.

Serving for the semifinals, Rublev earned match point 51 minutes after his prior match points, but found the net with a backhand then missed a crosscourt forehand as Chardy earned break point for 5-all.

Showing guts, Rublev fired a serve winner wide then curled a crosscourt forehand snug inside the sideline for a fourth match point. Rublev zapped his 15th ace down the T to close a fierce fight in two hours, 40 minutes.

Australian Open semifinalist Tsitsipas turned his quarterfinal against Khachanov around by attacking net with vigor: the second-seeded Greek won 34 of 41 trips to net today rallying from a set down and a break down in the final set.

Transition skills and speed around the court separate Tsitsipas from other rising young stars. The 22-year-old Greek whipped an eye-popping backhand drive volley to hold for a 3-0 second-set lead. 

Racing to his right, Tsitsipas dug out a tremendous defensive lob off the baseline coaxing Khachanov into is first smash miss of the day to break for a 4-0 second-set lead. Tsitsipas snapped a leaping smash to take the second set after one hour, 41 minutes.

Khachanov coaxed an errant backhand earning the first break in the fourth game of the final set. Tsitsipas came right back applying athleticism to test Khachanov, who bricked a volley to give back the break.

The second seed slashed his fourth ace leveling after six games.

A backhand bolt down the line brought the Greek triple match point. Tsitsipas thumped an ace down the middle to end a physical test.


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