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By Richard Pagliaro | @TennisNow | Friday, June 21, 2024


World No. 1 Jannik Sinner squeezed out a 6-2, 6-7(1), 7-6(3) win over Jan-Lennard Struff to reach his seventh semifinal of the year in Halle.

Photo credit: Corleve/Mark Peterson

In his first tournament as world No. 1 Jannik Sinner continues to tread the tiebreaker tightrope—and step closer to his first grass-court final.

The top-seeded Sinner squeezed out a 6-2, 6-7(1), 7-6(3) win over Jan-Lennard Struff to reach his seventh semifinal of the year on the grass of Halle today.

More: Draper Dethrones Alcaraz at Queen's Club

The 22-year-old Italian will face 42nd-ranked Chinese Zhang Zhizhen for a spot in Sunday's final. 

Zhang rallied from 3-5 down in the deciding set reeling off four games in a row to topple 44th-ranked American Christopher Eubanks 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in the final quarterfinal of the day.

It wasn’t easy for Sinner today.

A stubborn Struff saved 16 of 18 break points, including all seven break points in the final set, and smashed 18 aces.

Still, Sinner, who faced only one break point all day, kept calm and continued to take his cracks.

It was the third straight Halle match that Sinner lost a tiebreak set, shook it off and prevailed. Sinner improved to 36-3 on the season reaching his second grass-court semifinal and first since he lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2023 Wimbledon semifinals.

Bidding to become the first German man to defeat a world No. 1 on grass since Boris Becker beat Andre Agassi in the 1995 Wimbledon semifinals, Struff served big when facing break points and repeatedly attacked net in an effort to shorten points.

Sixteen minutes into the match, Struff showed soft hands at net digging out a low forehand volley—one of three break points he saved rallying from love-40 down in the sixth game.

Undeterred, Sinner rocked a backhand down the line to prolong the game. Struff was in position on the serve-and-volley, but botched a short backhand volley to face a fourth break point. Sinner blasted a return at the feet drawing a half-volley long to cap a six-minute game with the first break for 4-2.

Rain was pounding off the closed roof as Sinner stormed through a strong hold at 15 to stretch his lead to 5-2.

When Stuff missed his spot on serve, Sinner stung returns that jolted the turf beneath the German’s feet. Struff saved two set points, but netted a slice backhand to face a third.

The top seed scalded a backhand return scorcher scoring his second break to take a one set lead after just 30 minutes. Sinner won 16 of 19 points played on his serve in the opener.

Halle fans were chanting “Struffi! Struffi!” as the German home hero completed a tough hold then reached love-30 on Sinner’s serve.

The Australian Open champion reeled off four points in a row, holding for 3-2.

Munich champion Struff smacked an ace down the T to force the second-set tiebreaker.

Whipping a forehand down the line gave Struff the mini break to start the tiebreaker. Struff read the pass down the line and blocked a stretch forehand volley edging ahead 3-0.

A confident Struff slammed a serve winner stretching his lead to 5-1 as the players changed ends. When Sinner missed a backhand down the line, Struff seized the second set to force a decider after 92 minutes.

Despite not facing a break point, Sinner surrendered a tiebreak set for the third straight match.

Though Struff saved triple break point to start the final set, Sinner smacked a forehand swing volley for a fourth break point. On a bold second serve, Struff surprised the Italian going down the middle with a serve winner. By then, Struff saved 13 of 15 break points.

Lining up a forehand on his fifth break point of the game, Sinner crashed a drive into the tape. Struff saved five break points in all standing tall in holding for 1-0.

Sinner spit up his second double fault of the game to face the first break point of the day two hours into the match. Sinner saved it with a crackling first serve, eventually holding to level, 3-all.

Even at 4-all, Sinner squatted low and looped a backhand topspin lob winner to get to love-30 on the Struff serve. The German tried to serve-and-volley off a second serve, but Sinner slid a low return for two more break points.

Struff saved both break points pumping his 16th ace down the T to erase a seventh break point in the set. By that point, Struff saved 16 of 18 break points. Struff subdued stress holding for 5-4.

The 34-year-old German aced his way through another strong hold for 6-5.

Struff netted a forehand ceding the mini break to open the tiebreaker. Sinner smacked heavy serves surging to a 3-0 lead. Zapping an ace out wide, Sinner went up 4-2.

When Struff shoveled a half volley beyond the baseline, Sinner had four match points at 6-2.

On his second match point, Sinner drew the slice error and exhaled in relief withstanding a tough two hour, 30-minute battle.

Earlier, French Open finalist Alexander Zverev hit eight aces and saved the lone break point he faced fending off Frenchman Arthur Fils 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 in two-and-a-half hours.

“After the French Open, I was hoping the grass would play quicker and maybe not play for two-and-a-half hours, three hours, every single match,” Zverev said in his on-court interview. “I’m continuing what I always do and I’m happy to be winning in the semifinals.”

The two-time major finalist broke twice to beat the 20-year-old Fils for the second time in as many meetings.

“I think on grass I think it’s pretty difficult to do any homework except serve and return,” Zverev said. “I knew his patterns a little bit. But also you have to make the returns, right?

“In the first set, I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job of that and then second and third sets obviously [I returned] much better. Obviously, happy with the win.”

The victory vaults two-time Rome winner Zverev into Saturday’s semifinal vs. Hubert Hurkacz.

The 2022 champion Hurkacz, the lone former Halle champion still standing, topped Marcos Giron 7-6(5), 6-4 on the strength of 11 aces.


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