Pouille Clinches 'Revenge' Win Over Khachanov In Dubai
Last week, Lucas Pouille was denied the opportunity to clinch a second title on home soil in three weeks by Karen Khachanov in the Open 13 Provence final in Marseille. On Wednesday, just three days after the loss, the Frenchman found himself on the right side of the score line, beating the 21-year-old 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to book his place in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarter-finals.
"I knew it would be a tough one," admitted Pouille. "In the 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'm just very happy that I got my revenge today."
After letting an early first-set lead slip, Pouille took a one-set lead after crucially breaking serve in the ninth game. The 24-year-old could not keep his grip on the match, however, with Khachanov snatching the only break of the second set to force a decisive third set. Pouille was made to save two break points at the start of the decider, and grew in confidence from there, earning a crucial third break from only three break point opportunities in the match before unloading on his second serve to clinch his position in the quarter-finals.
As the highest seed left in the tournament, Pouille has a real chance of reaching a third final this month after winning the Open Sud de France in Montpellier and reaching the final at the Open 13 Provence (l. to Khachanov). The talented Frenchman now owns a 9-2 win loss record this month. "I'm starting to feel better and better here," said Pouille. "I'm very happy with this month of February so far."
The only man standing in the World No. 15's way of back-to-back semi-finals in Dubai, is Yuichi Sugita. The eighth seed withstood 12 aces to beat Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6(4), 6-4 in one hour and 31 minutes. The match will be Pouille and Sugita's first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.
The third seed looked set for a real battle after dropping the second set on a windy day in Dubai, but raised his level and charged to victory. "I had to fight so hard," admitted Bautista Agut. "It was tough to feel good on the court today. We had a lot of wind."
Bautista Agut, who is bidding for a second ATP World Tour title of the season (Auckland), saved all four break points he faced in the two-hour, 20-minute battle, and won 80 per cent of points behind his first serve.The Spaniard now holds a 3-0 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Herbert and moves into a quarter-final against 2015 semi-finalist Borna Coric. "Coric is playing well," said Bautista Agut. "He's a very good player. I will have to play my best tennis to beat him."
Coric booked his place in the quarter-finals in just 63 minutes, beating Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-4. The Croatian broke Paire in five of his nine return games and dropped just three points behind his first serve, before sealing his spot in the last eight with a comfortable overhead.
Malek Jaziri backed up his first-round upset win over top seed Grigor Dimitrov with a 7-6(4), 7-6(3) triumph over World No. 43 Robin Haase. Jaziri, ranked 74 places below the Dutchman, took one hour and 56 minutes to beat Haase in a match which featured no breaks of serve. The Tunisian will meet #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals. The 19-year-old reached his second quarter-final of the season in the Middle East (Doha) with an impressive 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 come-from-behind win over sixth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.