© Getty Images/Alexander Scheuber

Fifth seed Andrey Rublev hits 30 winners on Friday to beat Roberto Bautista Agut in the Hamburg quarter-finals.

Rublev Grinds Down Bautista Agut For Hamburg Semi-final Spot

Russian to face Ruud in semi-finals

Andrey Rublev wore down one of the most consistent players on the ATP Tour, Roberto Bautista Agut, on Friday for a place in the Hamburg European Open semi-finals. Fifth seed and 2019 runner-up Rublev played with great aggression on the slow Hamburg clay to triumph 6-2, 7-5 in one hour and 31 minutes.

Rublev, who hit 20 of his 30 winners off his forehand wing, improved to a 23-6 match record on the 2020 season at the newly renovated Am Rothenbaum, venue of the ATP 500 tournament.

“Roberto is one of the most consistent players on Tour, it’s really tough to beat him,” said World No. 14 Rublev, in an on-court interview. “You need to play at an amazing level and be really fit. He never gives you an easy match. I am really pleased as I played well, even in the first set — in spite of the score — there were long games and I’m happy to get through the second set.”

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Rublev’s backhand stood up well in the opening exchanges, and it was fourth seed Bautista Agut who faltered in the opening game as he missed a backhand down the line. Rublev broke once more for a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner, before Bautista Agut started to step in and take the ball earlier to make inroads. Rublev broke for a third time, for a 5-2 advantage, with a barrage of aggressive forehands and completed the 34-minute opener with a backhand volley — one of 12 winners. Bautista Agut had won eight of his 23 service points.

Rublev twice appeared to have made a decisive breakthrough in the second set — breaking in the third and fifth games — but Bautista Agut found a way back, muscling his way in with his own aggressive play to lead 5-4. Rublev, playing at his very best, did so well to maintain his composure in their fourth ATP Head2Head meeting and broke Bautista Agut at 5-5, 30/40 with two aggressive forehands on approach to the net, which forced a backhand error. The 22-year-old secured his spot in the fourth ATP 500 semi-final of his career, in the next game, when Bautista Agut hit a backhand return into the net.

Rublev will face in-form Norwegian Casper Ruud for a place in the championship match. The World No. 30 earned a tour-leading 15th clay win of the year (15-3) against Ugo Humbert, beating the Auckland champion 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 in two hours and 38 minutes.

Ruud is through to his fourth semi-final from five clay events this year. The 21-year-old claimed his first ATP Tour crown at the Argentina Open (d. P. Sousa) and also reached the Santiago final in February (l. to Seyboth Wild). At last week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Ruud beat Marin Cilic and Matteo Berrettini in consecutive matches to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final (l. to Djokovic).

This will be the second straight year where Rublev and Ruud meet at this event. In their only previous ATP Head2Head encounter, Rublev earned a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win to reach the quarter-finals.

“It was a tough match in the second round [last year],” said Ruud, in an on-court interview. “Rublev is a very good player, a very dangerous player. He made the final here last year, so he is feeling good on this court. I have to be ready for a very tough match.

“He is higher ranked than me. He is a better player than me. I am the underdog, so I will just try to do my best and hopefully try to get that revenge from last year.”

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