• German star needed two sets to go past Chilean Garin at the Italian Open
World number three Alexander Zverev remained on course to claim his first title of the season after overcoming Cristian Garin at the Italian Open yesterday to set up a semi-final showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas, who saw off home favourite Jannik Sinner.
Zverev, who won the title in Rome in 2017, eased into the last four with a 7-5 6-2 win over Garin in the pair’s first meeting since the Chilean upset him on home soil en route to winning the ATP 250 event in Munich three years ago.
Garin, the only unseeded player remaining, had the first break point of the match at 3-2 but Zverev squirmed his way out of it and broke his 25-year-old opponent to take a 4-3 lead and, after some poor shot selection, closed out a gritty opening set.
Zverev comfortably won the second set after Garin dropped serve in his first game, converting two out of his seven break points to wrap up the victory.
“I think it was a high level match. At times it wasn’t pretty tennis but I got the job done and that’s the most important thing,” said Zverev, who is yet to drop a set in Rome.
The 25-year-old German will face Tsitsipas in the semi-finals of an ATP tournament for the third time in the space of a month, after the world number five kept his composure in front of a raucous crowd to hold off Sinner for a 7-6(5) 6-2 victory.
In an entertaining opening lasting nearly an hour and a half, Tsitsipas raced to a 3-0 lead and Sinner battled back to draw level before the Greek edged it on the tiebreak.
Tsitsipas cruised through the second set and, after a stoppage in play at match point when a spectator fell ill, dealt with Sinner’s miscalculated drop shot to triumph.
Norwegian fifth seed Casper Ruud continued his good form on European clay as he saved two set points against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov for a hard-fought 7-6(7) 7-5 win.
On Thursday, Shapovalov beat Rafael Nadal 1-6 7-5 6-2 in the last-16.
RAFAEL NADAL IS CONCERNED
Nadal said that everyday training was a challenge and he would take a doctor with him to Roland Garros after the 21-times major winner was once again hampered by a chronic foot injury in his defeat by Shapovalov.
Nadal, who only recently returned from a stress fracture in the ribs, struggled badly at the back end of his match against Shapovalov.
“I had my foot again with a lot of pain. I am a player living with an injury - it is nothing new. It’s something that is there,” Nadal, a 10-times champion in Rome, told reporters.
“Unfortunately, my day-by-day is difficult, honestly. Even like this, I am trying hard... it can be frustrating that a lot of days I can’t practice the proper way.”
“Since I came back, the foot has been tough,” added the Spaniard. “Negative thing and toughest thing for me today is honestly I started to feel myself play much better. I started the match playing much better.”
JABEUR REACHES SEMI-FINALS
Ons Jabeur reached the semi-finals of the Italian Open yesterday after bouncing back from being a game away from defeat to beat Maria Sakkari 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Tunisian Jabeur made history last weekend by winning in Madrid to become the first Arab or African player to claim a WTA 1000 title and let out a roar of delight after a magnificent win in Rome.
The 27-year-old looked certain to be heading out after being hammered by world number four Sakkari in the first set and going down 5-2 in the second.
Greece’s Sakkari was serving for what appeared to be a routine win but from nowhere Jabeur pushed back, breaking serve in game eight before winning the next seven to go three ahead in set three, a lead which she never relinquished.
“In my head at 5-2 I said, You cannot finish those two weeks, those amazing almost three weeks, like this,” Jabeur told reporters.
“To back up the performance from Madrid, it’s very important for me... It’s one of the reasons why I’m here, why I want to continue showing myself on the court.”
Earlier Iga Swiatek stretched her winning streak to 26 matches after a straight-sets victory over Bianca Andreescu, 7-6 (7/2), 6-0.
Swiatek, the reigning champion in Rome, is gunning for a fifth tournament victory in a row and showed why she is the favourite for the French Open later this month against Canadian Andreescu.
The world number one will face Aryna Sabalenka in the women’s semi-finals after the third seed won 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 against Amanda Anisimova.
Belarus’ Sabalenka beat Anisimova for the first time in five attempts after the American had ended her Madrid title defence in the first round at the end of last month.
Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in action during her quarter-final against Greece’s Maria Sakkari in Rome yesterday.
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