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Ricky’s Preview and Picks For the Dubai ATP Semifinals: Rublev vs. Karatsev and Shapovalov vs. Harris

Andrey Rublev has won 23 consecutive ATP 500 matches. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

By Ricky Dimon

It will be an all-Russian affair in the Dubai semifinals when Andrey Rublev goes up against Aslan Karetsev on Friday. Denis Shapovalov and Lloyd Harris will square off for the other spot in Saturday’s title match.

(WC) Aslan Karatsev vs. (2) Andrey Rublev

Rublev and Karatsev, who were on Russia’s ATP Cup-winning team (although Karatsev never saw the court), just captured the Doha doubles title together last weekend. With Rublev on the opposite side of the net this time around, it will probably be a lot less fun for Karatsev. They are going head-to-head for the first time in their careers in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday.

Two wins away from an absurd fifth consecutive 500-point title, Rublev has won 23 matches in a row at this level (Roger Federer holds the record with 28). The recent Rotterdam champion has extended his second-best mark with Dubai victories over Emil Ruusuvuori, Taylor Fritz, and Marton Fucsovics. The world No. 8 has not dropped a set or even played a tiebreaker, whereas Karatsev is coming off three straight three-setters (vs. Dan Evans, Lorenzo Sonego, and Jannik Sinner). Karatsev may be on fire in 2021, but going up against an even more in-form good friend on a low tank of energy may be a recipe for disaster.

Pick: Rublev in 2

Denis Shapovalov takes on qualifier Lloyd Harris. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

(Q) Lloyd Harris vs. (3) Denis Shapovalov

Shapovalov just ended the run of a red-hot underdog, and now he will face another one on Friday. Following a 6-1, 6-3 destruction of Jan-Lennard Struff and a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Hubert Hurkacz, the 12th-ranked Canadian dismissed Jeremy Chardy 7-5, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Chardy has already won 11 tour-level matches this season, so that result was a nice one for Shapovalov.

Next up is Harris, who reached the Australian Open third round and the Doha second round as a qualifier and now finds himself in the Dubai semis–also as a qualifier. After battling his way into the main draw, the 81st-ranked South African ousted Christopher O’Connell, top seed Dominic Thiem, Filip Krajinovic, and Kei Nishikori. Although he has a ton of momentum, that is a lot of tennis in a short amount of time for Harris. This won’t be easy for him against Shapovalov, who is looking unstoppable this week–at least by anyone other than Rublev.

Pick: Shapovalov in 2

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.