Sonego Soars Into Eastbourne SFs

The third seed will next face Purcell

Third seed Lorenzo Sonego moved past Alexander Bublik on Thursday to notch his 17th tour-level win of the year, to remain on track to record his best-ever season. The Italian is now into the semi-finals of the Viking International Eastbourne, improving to 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against the World No. 39.

Sonego raced into a 3-0 lead as he won 65 per cent (11/17) of his first-service points in the opening set. He then broke Bublik twice in the second set to battle through in 79 minutes.

“I am really happy with the match because it is not easy playing against Bublik, because he is an amazing talent,” Sonego said. “Especially in the second set, it was really tough, but I am happy with the match.

“I am full of energy because I like playing here. My serve is good for the grass court, and I like playing in Eastbourne. There are a lot of Italian fans, and it is good for me.”

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Sonego, who won the Sardegna Open (d. Djere) on home soil in Cagliari in April, is now just three wins away from equalling the 20 tour-level victories he recorded in 2019. The 26-year-old will play Australian Max Purcell in the semi-finals in Eastbourne.

Purcell, No. 283 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, was contesting his first ATP Tour quarter-final against Andreas Seppi on Thursday. The 23-year-old battled through, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in one hour and 58 minutes.

The Australian recovered from losing the second set, winning 82 per cent (14/17) of his first-service points in the decider to advance. Seppi is now 3-5 on the season and 62-47 overall on grass in his career.

Purcell credits part of his success to an intense nine-week training block after the Australian Open with his coach of two and a half years, Nathan Healey. That plan was in part due to the difficulty of leaving and re-entering Australia due to the pandemic. He also said his focus on practising with singles players rather than practising doubles (he's ranked No. 43) has helped.

"I've been practising with as many singles players as I can and that has helped," Purcell said. "It's a matter of getting my name out with these guys.

"You have to believe [these moments will come], or who would want to go out there? I've been waiting for the right opportunity. This just happens to be the week where I'm making a little bit of a start."

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Another Australian, Alex de Minaur, booked his spot in the last four at Eastbourne with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Vasek Pospisil. The second seed, who is at a career-high No. 18 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, has now won six matches on grass this year.

He reached the quarter-finals at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart and the semi-finals at the cinch Championships in London last week, and is now 18-13 on the season. The 22-year-old broke the Canadian three times and will face Soonwoo Kwon next.

“[I am] very happy. This is a part of the season which I look forward to every year, and I feel like I have been able to gradually improve and play better and better, so I am very happy with where my game is at,” De Minaur said.

“I feel like [the] last grass season I didn't perform the way I wanted to, so it's good to kind of show what I can do on this surface. Mentally I think I'm staying in the moment. I'm doing what I need to do,” De Minaur added.

Kwon reached his first ATP Tour semi-final on Thursday when he defeated Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 7-5 in Eastbourne. The World No. 77 broke Ivashka’s serve three times and recovered from failing to convert a match point on serve at 5-4 to eventually close out.

Kwon recently posted his best Grand Slam result by reaching the third round at Roland Garros (d. Berrettini). He is now 10-9 for the season, and 1-7 in ATP Tour quarter-finals.

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