The quarterfinal day at the 2020 Hamburg European Open saw the favorites advance to the final four. Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud confirmed their impeccable dispositions as of late, while Stefanos Tsitsipas was once again tested by a fellow single-handed backhand player, Dusan Lajovic.
Attack over defense
Andrey Rublev was imperious in the first set against Roberto Bautista Agut, taking it 6-2. While neither of the two is a clay-court specialist, the Russian has been making great progress recently and was able to hit through the Spaniard’s defense. Bautista Agut raised the depth and consistency of his counterpunching in the second set but was unable to respond to Rublev’s brilliant point construction. The Russian took their quarterfinal match 6-2 7-5.
“I’m really happy to be back (in the semifinals). I have great memories from last year.” said Rublev, who was the runner-up in Hamburg in 2019 (lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili). “I’m playing good here, I win great matches. Especially today, against a really, really tough opponent, against Roberto that is a really good friend of mine, which is not easy to play. Yeah, I’m really happy with my performance and we’ll see what’s gonna happen next.”
With the French Open so soon, Rublev is now considered one of the potential dark horses for that event. But the Russian is not letting himself think too much about the upcoming challenge. “I know who I’m gonna play in my first match in Paris. I know that it’s Sam Querrey, but for the moment I’m not thinking about it. First, I wanna finish here.”
Another test passed
Stefanos Tsitsipas stopped a great run by Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic. The second seed had some trouble with Lajovic’s serve early, missing a lot of returns on his kick second serves. But as the match progressed, Tsitsipas adapted and at one point even broke three consecutive times. The Serbian looked comfortable rallying with the world no.6 but adapted a very passive playstyle whenever an opportunity arose.
“My return of serve (was better today). And my first serve. And least that’s how I felt it.” said Tsitsipas after the win. The Greek played a fellow single-handed backhand for the third time in a row this event but will face Cristian Garin in the semifinals. He also spoke about the crowd support of the German fans, which he was very thankful for. “I feel loved here and that’s great, I think that’s a big bonus.”
Golden Swing heroes still shine
Cristian Garin and Casper Ruud were one of the players wishing the full European clay-court season was happening. Ruud got his maiden ATP title in Buenos Aires in February. Garin’s Golden Swing was even better, as he captured titles in consecutive weeks (Cordoba and Rio de Janeiro). Seven months later, after the restart of the season, the two are still playing wonderful tennis on the clay.
Casper Ruud followed up his semifinal run at the Italian Open last week with another semifinal in Hamburg. The Norwegian defeated Ugo Humbert 7-5 3-6 6-1 on Friday. The first set was an extremely tight affair with Ruud fending off two set points at 4-5 down. He will face Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the semifinals.
In the last match of the day, Garin defeated Alexander Bublik 3-6 6-4 6-2. The Chilean found himself a set down as Bublik rallied well off the ground and was able to utilize his serve and netplay to break his opponent’s rhythm. But as the match wore on, Garin started exposing Bublik’s lacking movement on clay and taking advantage of the rare lapses of concentration. Still, known for his flamboyant style and weird off-court and on-court antics, Bublik certainly surprised this week as he showed a whole new level to his game on slower surfaces. Cristian Garin will take on Stefanos Tsitsipas in Saturday’s semifinals.
Main Photo from Getty.