After entering the Winston-Salem Open at a career-high of No. 23 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Botic van de Zandschulp is knocking on the door of the Top 20 behind his third tour-level semi-final run of the season.
The second-seeded Dutchman defeated France's Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(6), 7-6(1) to extend his strong debut at the North Carolina ATP 250 event, improving to 6-0 in sets on the week. Already up to No. 22 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, he will rise to No. 19 if he can win his first ATP Tour title on Saturday.
"It's been a rollercoaster of a season, making such a jump in the rankings, playing different tournaments, playing all the big tournaments," said the 26-year-old, who broke into the Top 100 for the first time following his run to the US Open quarter-finals last year. "It's every time a first time, and it's also my first time here in Winston-Salem and for now I'm still loving it," he added with a smile.
Van de Zandschulp battled back from 1/4 down to win the opening tie-break but dominated the second tie-break as he raised his level in the crucial moments. Bonzi did little wrong but could not cope with the varied attack from the Dutchman, who finished a 15-ace performance with an unreturned serve on match point.
"I played an unbelievable breaker," he said of his success down the stretch against the 10th seed. "I think we both served great today, we both played a very good match and we played a high level. I'm really happy with the win."
After an opening set that did not include a break point, van de Zandschulp recovered an early break in the second after saving two break points to hold for 2-3 and avoid going a double break behind. He won the first five points of the second tie-break as he wrapped up the win in just over two hours.
Another Frenchman awaits in the semi-finals after Adrian Mannarino's upset of fourth seed Maxime Cressy. In a 6-4, 7-6(3) victory, Mannarino broke the American's serve in the opening game of both sets but found himself level at 3-3 in the second after dropping serve on the lone break point against him in the 92-minute match.
Now 18-12 on hard courts this season, the Frenchman was playing in his fifth quarter-final of the year and advanced to his second semi-final ('s-Hertogenbosch). He has beaten three seeds this week, knocking off ninth seed Emil Ruusuvuori and eighth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the past two rounds.
The second Winston-Salem semi-final will see Serbia's Laslo Djere take on Swiss qualifier Marc-Andrea Huesler.
Djere saved two match points to defeat Richard Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6) to open the evening session, winning the final four points of the match — starting with a stunning forehand return winner — after the Frenchman moved ahead 6/4 in the tie-break.
Huesler upset 13th seed Jack Draper with a dominant performance in a 6-4, 6-4 victory. The Swiss is the fourth qualifier to reach the Winston-Salem semi-finals and could become the first to win the ATP 250 title.
The doubles final is also set in North Carolina after Thursday's results. Third seeds Matthew Ebden and Jamie Murray downed Simone Bolelli and Marcelo Melo 7-6(2), 6-2 after Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski scored a 6-4, 7-6(4) upset against fourth seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara.