© Open 13/Corinne Dubreuil

Ilya Ivashka advances to his first ATP World Tour semi-final with a victory against home favourite Nicolas Mahut.

Getting To Know Ilya Ivashka

Ivashka is the first Belarusian tour-level semi-finalist since Max Mirnyi at 2005 Rotterdam

Before the 2018 season, Ilya Ivashka had never competed in an ATP World Tour main draw. But this week, the 23-year-old has played the best tennis of his career to advance to the semi-finals of the Open 13 Provence in Marseille. The World No. 193 not only qualified, but ousted Laslo Djere, was leading second seed Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 1-1 when the Swiss retired due to a knee injury, and then held on to defeat home favourite Nicolas Mahut in three sets on Friday evening.

“It’s a very good feeling,” Ivashka told ATPWorldTour.com after beating Mahut in the quarter-finals. “It was a tough match today and I’m happy that I’m in the semi-finals and that I’ll play tomorrow.”

What makes his run even more special is that Ivashka is the first Belarusian to make the semi-finals of an ATP World Tour event since Max Mirnyi at 2005 Nottingham — better yet, it is only the third tour-level event of his career (2016 US Open, 2018 Pune).

“It means a lot because I didn’t know that he was the last player,” Ivashka said of Mirnyi. “I knew that he won the title in Rotterdam [in 2003]. I knew he was the last one who won an ATP [World Tour] title, but I didn’t know about the semi-finals. It’s a great feeling and I enjoy representing my country and I’m very proud of that.”

In fact, 11 of the right-hander’s 17 tour-level matches have come in Davis Cup competition for Belarus. However, Ivashka has been training in Barcelona, Spain for more than a year. Why did he make the decision to work on his game away from home?

“It’s quite tough to say, but it was very good conditions for me,” Ivashka said. “I had a coach there who I really liked to work with and I decided to go there.”

Last November, the Belarusian made a coaching change and began working with former World No. 230 Jose Checa-Calvo. And while it would have been tough to envision such a massive success this quickly, the semi-finalist is not shocked.

“I was not thinking about this, but maybe I would believe [in a big result] because I’m working really hard and I have a lot of goals,” said Ivashka, who captured his lone ATP Challenger Tour title last June in Fergana, Uzbekistan. “So maybe I would believe it, but not this soon.

“It’s a great feeling because before I didn’t play a lot of ATPs... I didn’t have a lot of experience, but now it feels good to be here and win matches here, so I really enjoy it."

Ivashka is not done yet, as he looks to spring another upset on Saturday against third seed and recent Open Sud de France winner Lucas Pouille. 

"I just go day-by-day and I try to work hard every day, do my routines and it helps me to be focused," Ivashka said. "Every day is another day and I need to keep working and keep playing."

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