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Tennis From Barcelona • Sinner Soars Past Rublev in Quarters, Rafa Nadal and Stef Tsitsipas Also Win in Straight Sets

Jannik Sinner in action during his quarter-final match against Andrey Rublev at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell – Conde de Godo tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 23 April 2021. …

By Ricky Dimon 

With Andrey Rublev struggling mentally and physically at this week’s Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Jannik Sinner was expected by many to win Friday’s quarterfinal contest between two of the hottest players on tour.

Sinner has never had any trouble living up to expectations in the early stages of his promising career, and more of the same continued on Friday. The 19-year-old ran into some resistance in the second set, but for the most part he cruised past Rublev 6-2, 7-6(6) in one hour and 36 minutes.

“I am trying to get better every week,” said Sinner, who has already set a high bar for himself in 2021 with one title (Melbourne 250) and a runner-up finish at the Miami Masters. “[Rublev] has played many, many matches already this year and I tried to play my tennis. It was difficult to finish it off. I had three break points at 5-5 (in the second set), which I could not convert. But I’m pleased to win in the end.”

Next up for the 19th-ranked Italian is another blockbuster battle, this one with Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reacts against Canadian tennis player Felix Auger Aliassime during the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell – Conde de Godo tournament quarterfinal match in Barcelona, Spain, 23 April 2021. EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia

Whereas Rublev slowed down considerably following last week’s run to the Monte-Carlo final, Tsitsipas is having no such issues. The fifth-ranked Greek has not dropped a set in Barcelona and he has won 15 sets in a row overall since falling to Hubert Hurkacz in the Miami quarterfinals. Tsitsipas continued the streak by easing past Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 on Friday. The 22-year-old needed just one hour and 23 minutes to advance.

“I think my hard efforts paid off,” Tsitsipas explained. “I wouldn’t say it was the best start, but I managed to win my serve from 0-40 down (in the second game_. That got me into the match and that helped me to break him at the end. I didn’t panic, but I knew what I was doing. It feels good to be able to play the way I am. I really hope the winning streak continues.”

As well as the second seed is playing, it won’t be easy with Sinner in the semifinals and potentially Rafael Nadal in the final.

Spanish player Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating British tennis player Cameron Norrie in their quarter-final match at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell – Conde de Godo tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 23 April 2021. EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia

Nadal powered his way into the last four by winning in straight sets for the first time this week, 6-1, 6-4 over Cameron Norrie. The 11-time champion, who dropped sets to both Ilya Ivashka and Kei Nishikori, was good enough to defeat Norrie in one hour and 34 minutes.

Saturday’s second semifinal will pit Nadal against either Diego Schwartzman over Pablo Carreno Busta.

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