Match Report

'Poker face' Tabilo powers past Zhang to Rome SFs

Chilean will take on Zverev in last four
May 15, 2024
Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images
Alejandro Tabilo defeats Zhang Zhizhen on Wednesday in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia quarter-finals. By ATP Staff

Alejandro Tabilo extended his dream Internazionali BNL d'Italia run in commanding style on Wednesday, when the 29th-seeded Chilean dispatched Zhang Zhizhen 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semi-finals at the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome.

Tabilo, who upset World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round, delivered a display full of confident, aggressive baseline hitting to triumph in his maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with Zhang. The lefty clinched the only break of serve in each set en route to a one-hour, 27-minute triumph at the Foro Italico.

“I can’t believe it right now. I’m still trying to just soak this in,” said Tabilo after his win. “I’m just so happy. I felt pretty good on court, pretty solid. I was just trying to my job and play my best tennis.”

A strong serving performance was the foundation for Tabilo’s win. He won 83 per cent (33/40) of points behind his first serve and saved both break points he faced against Zhang, according to Infosys ATP Stats, and sent down his seventh ace of the match to clinch his fourth straight-sets win in four matches in Rome so far.

One year ago this week, Tabilo fell in the first round of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Tunis as the World No. 190. Now, having racked up a personal-best 19 tour-level wins in 2024, the Auckland champion is up to No. 25 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings.

“It’s definitely the best tennis of my life right now, but I was trying to keep a poker face there, because inside I was so nervous,” said Tabilo. “Every time, trying close out the match gets a little bit tighter. So I was just trying to be loose, trying to smile out there at the end, and thank god I served so well at the end. That helped me close out the match.”

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Tabilo had won just seven Masters 1000 main-draw matches prior to his Rome run, but he will now play 2017 champion Alexander Zverev for a spot in the championship match. He is the first Chilean to reach a Masters 1000 semi-final since Fernando Gonzalez in Rome in 2009, and Nicolas Jarry has the chance to make it two Chileans in the last four on Thursday evening at the Foro Italico. The 21st-seeded Jarry plays sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in his quarter-final.

“Right now I’m just going to try and relax and recover," said Tabilo, when asked about his upcoming match. "We have a day off now, so I will just try and rest and watch the [Zverev vs. Fritz] match a little bit. Hopefully I can keep at this level, and if possible a little bit better.”

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