Jannik Sinner upset in-form Andrey Rublev for the fourth Top 10 win of his career on Friday and a place in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell semi-finals. The #NextGenATP Italian dictated the tempo and moved superbly to overcome third-seeded Russian Rublev 6-2, 7-6(6) in one hour and 36 minutes.
Sinner, 19, who captured his second ATP Tour title in February at the Great Ocean Road Open (d. Travaglia), struck 20 winners in his second ATP Head2Head meeting against Rublev, who drops to a 26-6 match record on the season. Sinner saved one set point at 5/6 in the second set tie-break.
“I am trying to get better every week,” said Sinner. “He has played many, many matches already this year and I tried to play my tennis. It was difficult to finish it off. I had three break points at 5-5 [in the second set], which I could not convert, but I’m pleased to win in the end. I am getting more experience in every tournament I play.”
Sinner, who is the youngest Barcelona semi-finalist since 2005, when 18-year-old Nadal won the first of his 11 Barcelona titles, will next challenge second-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, last week’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion, or No. 10 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.
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Sinner came through the first set, closer than the score suggests, with Rublev a fraction slow in his movement. Rublev struck a double fault to hand Sinner the break in the third game and then the 19-year-old Italian hit a forehand winner to break for a second time and a 5-2 advantage. Sinner closed out the 32-minute set after Rublev hit a backhand return long. The Russian committed eight of his 12 unforced errors off his backhand wing.
Rublev started to fire groundstroke winners, capitalising on a slight dip from Sinner. But it was Sinner, who broke into the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time this week, who gained the first break of the second set at 3-3. Rublev immediately broke back to love, yet soon found himself at 5-5, 0/40. He did well to dig himself out of a big hole.
It was all Sinner in the early stages of the tie-break, with the Italian winning four of the first five points, but Rublev worked his way back and held one set point at 6/5. Sinner trusted his game and struck a forehand winner and soon closed out for a place in his first ATP Tour clay-court semi-final with his fourth ace.
World No. 19 Sinner, who is making his Barcelona tournament debut this week, is now 18-6 on the year.