Thiem battles past Karatsev as Federer survives Evans scare in Doha - GulfToday

Thiem battles past Karatsev as Federer survives Evans scare in Doha

Roger Federer

Roger Federer, who made his long-awaited return to the court, shown upon his arrival at Doha’s international airport, ahead of the Qatar Open. Agence France-Presse

The Qatar Open on Wednesday saw its top two seeds stretched to the limit. Top seed Dominic Thiem withstood the challenge of Russian wild card Aslan Karatsev in a comeback victory, while second seed Roger Federer survived a Daniel Evans scare before prevailing in three sets to advance.  

While World No. 4 Thiem bounced back from last month’s Australian Open fourth-round exit by beating Karatsev 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 56 minutes, Federer beat Evans 7-6, 3-6, 7-5.

Thiem said after the win: “We played in juniors 10 or 11 years ago, and we also practised in Vienna, so he wasn’t completely new to me.”

Thiem, who hit nine aces and won 83 per cent of his first-service points against Karatsev, added: “But he has raised his level so much in the past six months, especially last month in Australia.

“I was up in the tie-break and then I lost it, which was not nice, but he helped me a little bit in that first game [of the second set]. I think he hit two double faults. After you lose a close set, it’s super important to have a good start in the next one. And that’s what I had. It was pretty fast, 3-0, and so I was positive again in my mind. I also loosened up a little bit and started to play better.”

Thiem will next face 2019 champion and fifth seed Roberto Bautista of Spain. One break of serve in each set was enough for Bautista Agut to beat Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, this season’s Antalya Open and Singapore Tennis Open finalist, 6-4, 6-3 in 70 minutes. The Spaniard won 32 of 37 first-service points to advance to the quarter-finals.

In a high quality first set, which didn’t feature a break point en route to the tie-break, Thiem struggled to return Karatsev’s serve, but opened up a 5/2 advantage in the tie-break. Karatsev responded, winning the next five points to clinch the 52-minute opener, which ended with a Thiem backhand error.

Thiem regrouped in the second set, with Karatsev paying the price for two double faults in the second game. Thiem varied his groundstroke length and service pace to take a 3-0 lead and carried the momentum by breaking Karatsev’s serve once more in the first game of the decider.

Last month, Karatsev became the first player in the Open Era (since April 1968) to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam championship on his main draw debut. The 27-year-old rose from No. 114 to No. 42 in the FedEx ATP Rankings after his performances in Melbourne. He also helped Russia capture the ATP Cup crown (d. Italy).

Defending champion Andrey Rublev, the third seed from Russia, advanced to the Doha quarter-finals without hitting a ball after his opponent, France’s Richard Gasquet, the 2013 Doha titlist, withdrew ahead of their match due to a leg injury.

Earlier, Denis Shapovalov was rock solid on serve as the fourth seed won an all-Canadian clash against Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 45 minutes at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. One break of serve in each set was enough for Shapovalov, who struck seven aces and didn’t face a break point.

Shapovalov will now challenge American Taylor Fritz, who saved three match points in the deciding set to overcome David Goffin of Belgium.

Fritz beat sixth seed Goffin, the recent Open Sud de France champion, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(9) in two hours and 35 minutes. The World No. 33, who led Goffin by a set and 3-1, was forced to save three match points at 5-6 in the third set, then at 6/7 and 8/9 in the tie-break.

Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, who came into the ATP 250 tournament on the back of five straight losses, is through to his second quarter-final of 2021 (also the Antalya Open) after he defeated Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri 6-2, 6-2 in 76 minutes.

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