Carlos Alcaraz ends Purcell’s dream Cincinnati run, Djokovic crushes Fritz

MASON - World number one Carlos Alcaraz ended Austra­lian qualifier Max Purcell’s dream run with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win to reach the Cincinnati Open semi-finals on Friday, while Novak Djokovic demolished top American Taylor Fritz 6-0 6-4. 

The 70th-ranked Purcell has produced some of the best tennis of his career recently and at the U.S. Open tune-up event he took down French Open finalist Casper Ruud and three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland. But Alcaraz’s superb form was too much to overcome as the twice Grand Slam winner kept his cool after a frustrating opening set, unleashing 30 winners in the match on Centre Court. “He (im­pressed) me a lot. His game is pretty good. Serve really well. Volley pretty well, as well. It was re­ally tough for me,” Alcaraz told reporters. 

The Spaniard failed to convert his only break point chance of the first set in the second game before helping Purcell to the crucial break in the seventh game with an unforced error. Purcell sealed the first set with an unreturnable serve but the 20-year-old Spaniard sent a quick reminder of why he is the world’s best as he won the first three games of a speedy second set, where he dropped only two of his first-serve points. 

Down a break in the third, Purcell refused to go down without a fight, fending off four break points in an epic third game before neutralising Alcaraz’s mighty forehand to break back in the fourth. But the Wimbledon champion kept his composure and broke Purcell to love in the ninth game before seal­ing the affair in next game with an ace and a smile. 

The win set up a semi-final with Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who sent over 10 aces and never faced a break to get past Australian lucky loser Alexei Popyrin 6-1 7-6(8). Hurkacz won the first five games in the 26-minute first set, where he only dropped one first-serve point. He squandered a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak but held on to reach the fifth Masters 1000 semi-final of his career. 

Capping the evening’s programme, second seed Djokovic converted on all five break point opportunities to flummox Fritz in a clinical per­formance, sending over 13 winners while mak­ing few mistakes. He needed only 21 minutes to cruise through his opening set against an in­creasingly frustrated Fritz, who struggled in vir­tually every aspect of his game as he put up a trio of double faults with a malfunctioning serve. 

The 23-times major winner only briefly ap­peared vulnerable as a resolute Fritz converted on a break point in the opening game of the second set. But a steely Djokovic kept his calm and broke back in the eighth, leaning on his reliable fore­hand. The Serbian closed out the affair in about an hour, breaking Fritz’s serve in the 10th game with a crosscourt forehand shot that the American was unable to return. He next faces Alexander Zverev, who beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 6-2 6-3.

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