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Dominic Thiem lets slip a 5/2 advantage in the first set tie-break, but recovers to beat Aslan Karatsev on Wednesday in Doha.

Thiem Battles Past Karatsev In Doha

Austrian star to meet 2019 champion Bautista Agut

Top seed Dominic Thiem withstood the challenge of Russian wild card Aslan Karatsev on Wednesday in a comeback victory at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. The World No. 4 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.

“We played in juniors 10 or 11 years ago, and we also practised in Vienna, so he wasn’t completely new to me,” said Thiem, who hit nine aces and won 83 per cent of his first-service points against Karatsev. “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.

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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.

In the quarter-finals, Rublev will contest a rematch of last week’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament final against Marton Fucsovics. The Hungarian rallied from a set down to beat Lloyd Harris 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 in two hours and 10 minutes.

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