February 28, 2018 -- DUBAI, U.A.E.: Malek Jaziri claimed a breathtaking 7-6 (4) 7-6 (3) victory over 2017 semi-finalist Robin Haase on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. But second crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis was beaten 7-6 (2) 6-4 by seventh seed Filip Krajinovic.
Jaziri was under pressure to follow up his sensational win over world number four Grigor Dimitrov and rose magnificently to the occasion, fighting off all eight break points he faced and controlling both tiebreaks.
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"Everyone was waiting for me after beating seeded one," said Jaziri. "Everyone waiting (for me) to go the farthest as possible. Everyone is pushing (me) to play good, you know, to make bigger results. I think it was important to keep calm, only play tennis, enjoy the game, that was the most important, fight all the points. I think I played really good on the really important points today, the breakpoints and tiebreak. At the beginning of the tiebreak, I put much pressure, more winners on important points. I was really offensive. My serve helped me today in the really important points, like I said."
Baghdatis held nine break points but converted just one, and that cost him dearly against an opponent who played well under pressure. He held one that would have left him serving for a 4-0 lead in the first set, another to break for 6-5 and serve for the opening set and four more that would have given him a 2-0 lead in the second. He claimed none of those, and dropping his own serve to love at 4-4 in the second set sealed his fate.
"Yeah. It was a tough match. I faced a lot of breakpoints. I think I played really aggressive on that ones," said Krajinovic. "I think I play aggressive when I needed. I served well when I needed. That was the key. I stay with him. Yeah, it was a patient game. I'm really happy to play in quarter-final. Beating Baghdatis for me is good win. He likes to play here. He played semis and final."
Second seed Lucas Pouille avenged his defeat by Karen Khachanov in Sunday's Marseille final by edging him 6-4 3-6 6-3.
"Well, I knew it will be a tough one," said Pouille. "In final in Marseille, he won just three points more than me. I knew it was very close. I had to play some good tennis. I think in the third set, I put more return in the court and I was a bit more opportunist than him. I think that made the difference. So, no, I'm just very happy that I get my revenge today."
Third seed Roberto Bautista Agut will face former semi-finalist Borna Coric after they won contrasting victories. Bautista Agut was kept on court for 2 hours 21-minutes before overcoming Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4 6-7 (2) 6-1, while Coric took just 63 minutes to overwhelm Benoit Paire 6-1 6-4.
Bautista Agut had to be patient in the first set before he eventually took a 4-3 lead with his seventh break point. The second set remained equally close, with Herbert holding off four more break points and Bautista Agut having to save three against him, before Herbert swept the tiebreak with ease. The final set though was a swift affair which the third seed dominated from the start.
Coric made a lightning start on his way to defeating fifth seed Richard Gasquet on Tuesday and was equally quick off the mark against Paire, breaking serve in the opening game before claiming the final four games of the set for the loss of just five points. Coric then built a 4-1 lead in the second, but had to hold off a late fightback as Paire broke in the seventh game and then levelled at 4-4. That was only a brief pause though on the way to an otherwise comfortable victory.
Evgeny Donskoy kept his special relationship with the tournament alive as, after beating Roger Federer last year as a qualifier, on Wednesday he ousted fourth seed Damir Dzumhur 6-1 6-1 in just 50 minutes. Sixth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber also fell, beaten 4-6 6-3 6-4 by wild card Stefanos Tsitsipas, but eighth seed Yuichi Sugita safely moved into the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (4) 6-4 win over Jan-Lennard Struff.
"Malek Jaziri continues to thrill us with his exciting and aggressive game, and we are delighted to see him doing so well this week," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. "There is no reason to believe that he will not be able to continue his excellent form, and we wish him well in the quarter-finals."
"We have enjoyed more wonderful tennis today, not only from Malek Jaziri but all eight players who have fought their way through to the quarter-finals," said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. "It is impossible to predict who will be lifting the magnificent trophy on Saturday, and the only certainly is that there will be many more exciting matches in the days ahead."
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which continues until 3rd March, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets are on sale online and from the Box Office, which is open 9am -9pm daily. For ticket sales go to http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets. For further information about the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreentennischampionships.com.