Denis Shapovalov booked his place in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-finals after a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Jeremy Chardy on Thursday.
Third seed Shapovalov struck 26 winners and looked fresh in a convincing win that took him a step closer to his third ATP final.
The Canadian extended his perfect record to 3-0 against Chardy with the match turning in favour of Shapovalov at 5-5 in the first set when he struck a backhand return winner at deuce. Chardy’s first serve deserted him and Shapovalov took advantage to break en-route to clinching the opening set in 46 minutes.
Shapovalov seemed to thrive in the hot and quick conditions, winning 44 of 50 service points, including 10 aces, and clinched a place in his first semi-final since the St Petersburg Open in October 2020.
After defeating Jan-Lennard Struff and Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals, Shapovalov said that finding more consistency in his game was key to reaching more tour finals. He has reached two so far, winning one – the 2019 Stockholm Open.
At the moment, he looks like the man to beat in Dubai. “It was a tough match as Jeremy was serving and playing well,” said Shapovalov after his win over Frenchman Chardy.
“I am really happy that I was able to convert the break points. It helps to play three straight-set matches and I feel fresh and ready to go. Also because I haven’t been playing too many tournaments."
The 21-year-old revealed one area of his game that he has been working hard on to improve. “I’ve focused on my serve a lot in the past couple of weeks," he said. "I have worked on placing it and tried out different types of serves to have more variation. I hope I can continue that.
"I’ve also worked on my footwork and positioning during rallies. I am feeling the ball well on both sides. If I am moving well, everything goes into place.”
Shapovalov has now reached 12 career semi-finals and will face either South African qualifer Lloyd Harris – who stunned top seed Dominic Thiem in the second round – or Japan's Kei Nishikori.
Italy teenager Jannik Sinner is heading for the exit in Dubai after losing to Aslan Karatsev 6-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Sinner, who claimed a high-quality 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Roberto Bautista Agut in the previous round, found the Russian wildcard a tougher proposition.
Karatsev, who became the first male player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final on his debut at the Australian Open last month, hit 41 winners to earn a hard-fought win over No 16 seed Sinner.
“It was tough at the beginning as he is a really talented guy,” said Karatsev, who will next play countryman and second seed Andrey Rublev or Marton Fucsovics of Hungary. “In the tie-break I was a little unlucky. I felt more comfortable in the second set and knew how to play against him.”