Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Andrey Rublev in third-round action at the 2021 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
March 17, 2021 – DUBAI, UAE: Italian teenager Jannik Sinner claimed a dramatic 6-4 3-6 7-5 victory over fourth seed and former champion Roberto Bautista Agut on Wednesday to move into the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The measure of Sinner’s two hours 24 minute victory can be judged by the fact that his opponent has already reached two finals this year, in Montpellier and last week in Doha.
The gripping battle remained in the balance right up until the final ball was struck. The opening set went to Sinner after he broke to lead 5-4, and Bautista Agut levelled the match by breaking to lead 5-3 in the second before serving out the set. In the deciding set, Sinner held the advantage by breaking to lead 4-2 and, although Bautista Agut brought it back to 4-4, a double fault at 6-5 gave Sinner a match point that he gratefully accepted.
Sinner, who is making his debut in Dubai this week, is still a new name to many but he has already set numerous records. He ended 2020 as the number one teenager on the ATP Tour, and he won his second ATP250 title earlier this season in Melbourne. He won the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals title in Milan, and he advanced to the 2020 French Open quarter-finals upon his debut there, the first debutant to do so since Rafael Nadal in 2005. He was also the youngest quarter-finalist there since Novak Djokovic in 2006.
“Today I tried to play aggressive, especially on the return game,” said Sinner. “Some points I played a little bit slower to change the rhythm. I think that was the key.”
“Jannik Sinner is arguably the most exciting teenage player in the world, and we greatly enjoyed his wonderful performance against our 2018 champion,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “It will be interesting indeed to see if he can continue his success here as the week progresses.”
Second seed Andrey Rublev enjoyed a comfortable win over Taylor Fritz, taking just 64 minutes to win 6-3 6-1 and facing pressure only when leading 3-1 in the second set when he had to fend off six break points.
Third seed Denis Shapovalov, playing his 200th career match and again performing under the watchful eye of coach and former two-time Dubai finalist Mikhail Youzhny, also advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-4 6-3 win over Hubert Hurkacz, and Jeremy Chardy battled his way to a 6-7(3) 6-4 6-4 win over eighth seed Karen Khachanov.
Watch: Shapovalov Hot Shot
The 21-year old Shapovalov produced a confident and aggressive performance to overcome an opponent he had lost to in their two previous meetings. He always held the edge in what was still a closely fought opening set, breaking to lead 2-1 and fighting off a break point to hold 5-3 before securing the set. The second set was more comfortable as Shapovalov again broke for 2-1, and although he failed to covert three more break points at 3-1 he broke serve once more in the final game.
He has been waiting for his game to catch fire this season after losing his two matches in the ATP Cup, suffering a third round defeat at the Australian Open and winning just one match last week in Doha, where he fell to Taylor Fritz. He believes it is all coming together, but still issued a note of caution as he pursues his bid for a second career crown.
“I played some really good tennis,” said Shapovalov. “Obviously I’ve struggled against Hubert in the past and he’s such a great player. He’s got great weapons and is really tough to play against so I’m really happy to get my first win against him. With the way I was playing, I was really feeling it in the important points.”
“I think every day is different. I happened to feel it yesterday, I happened to feel it today, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to feel it tomorrow. I’m just going to go on the court and find a way to win and fight every point.
“I really feel I’ve put in a lot of good work with Misha (Youzhny), especially after the Australian Open. We had a good training block so in that sense for sure I do feel confident in my game and how I’m feeling physically. I’m hoping to play as well tomorrow but it’s never guaranteed.”
Chardy fired 19 aces but had to battle for 2 hours 35 minutes to edge past Karen Khachanov, who failed to win the only break point of the opening set before claiming the tiebreak. The first break of the match didn’t come until late in the second set when Chardy took a 5-4 lead and served out to level the match, and just one break settled the deciding set.
In other matches, Kei Nishikori beat Aljaz Bedene 6-4 6-4, Aslan Karatsev defeated Lorenzo Sonego 3-6 6-3 6-4, Marton Fucsovics upset 11th seed Dusan Lajovic 6-1 4-6 6-4 and Lloyd Harris beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6(5) 6-4.
The quarter-finals will see Denis Shapovalov play Jeremy Chardy, Aslan Karatsev face Jannik Sinner, Andrey Rublev against Marton Fucsovics and Lloyd Harris take on Kei Nishikori.
“As we enter the quarter-finals it is impossible to predict who will lift the trophy on Saturday,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “The only thing we can be certain of is that a new tournament champion will be crowned.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which 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, continues until 20th March.