The Dubai Duty Free Championships is certainly starting to throw up names which should become better known over the coming years if not months.
Today I was serving well once again. It is one of the things I have been doing extremely well throughout the week Lloyd Harris
For instance, Lloyd Harris, the 25year-old from Cape Town who came through qualifying, has made it into the last four with his follow-up victory over the top seeded Dominic Thiem, by eliminating the 14th seeded Filip Krajinovic 7-6(5) 6-4 in 92-minutes.
Harris’ booming serve is his biggest weapon as he acknowledged during his on court interview.
“Today (Wednesday), I was serving well once again. It is one of the things I have been doing extremely well throughout the week.
“I got down to a quick break in the first set and then managed to turn it around by playing some big and aggressive tennis. I think that helped me through the match.”
Harris now needs to get past former top five player Kei Nishikori who brought Aljaz Bedenes’ run to an end 6- 6-4.
Aslan Karatsev who at 27, has over the last few months turned from a journeyman to make up the ‘Russian Big Four’ behind Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov – he beat Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 3-6 6-3 6-4 to make the last eight.
Unfortunately, his compatriot, Khachanov crashed out after battling for two hours and 35-minutes only to lose out to the 35-year-old Frenchman ranked 53, Jeremy Chardy, 6-7(3) 6-4 6-4, in their third-round match.
Already a bit better known, Jannik Sinner, the Italian 19-year-old overcame the 2018 champion Roberto Bautista Agut to reach his third quarter-final of the season.
The teenager fired 16 aces during his two-hour 24-minute clash with the experienced fourth seeded Spaniard to set up a last-eight encounter with Karatsev which should be an interesting clash between two hungry players.
“He’s an incredible player, he’s very, very solid. For me, personally, it has been tough to have the right balance on court, not going for too much and not going too slow. So I think that was the key today,” said the 16th-seeded Sinner.
“I’m looking for this kind of matches, tough matches, knowing myself a little bit better, match after match trying to improve, I think that’s my main goal.”
Earlier the Canadian third seed Denis Shapovalov seems to have found a new gear as he blasted his way past Poland’s world No. 35 Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 6-3 in what was the 21-year-old’s 200th match on the tour. He goes on to face Chardy for place in the last four.
“For sure I’m playing some really good tennis,” said Shapovalov.
“Obviously I’ve struggled against Hubert in the past. He’s such a great player, he’s got great weapons. He’s really tough to play against so I’m really happy to get my first win against him. Definitely, with the way I played, I felt like I was just really feeling it in the important points.”
Meanwhile the title favourite who has won the last four ATP 500 events he has contested and is currently on a 22-match winning streak, Rublev swept past the American Taylor Fritz 6-3 6-1.
“I’m really happy that I can win in straight sets, quite confidently. I know Taylor since juniors and it’s always tough to play against him, because he has a huge serve and he’s playing really fast,” Rublev said.
“The first set was not even rallies because everything was serve, winner or serve, mistake, so everything was so fast.
“In these conditions, it’s tough to find the rhythm. You don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s really not easy, but I’m happy that in the end I made it.”
Asked to comment on his success at 500 level events and his winning streak, Rublev continued: “I think it’s not about 500s, it just happens.
“I’m really happy with my performance. I’m really happy that I’m playing and showing good results and we’ll see if I can keep working this way”.
He added: “There is no secret [to my streak]. It just happened… I was not focused on this. It just happened that I did good in these [ATP 500] weeks and I am really happy.
“We will see what is going to happen. Until [the media] started to write that I won 17 matches, 18 matches, 19 matches, I was not even realising that I did this. I am realising it now… I am really happy that it happened to me.”
Rublev next faces the 11th seeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics who defeated Serbias Dusan Lajovic 6-1 4-6 6-4.