Alcaraz leads the semifinalists

August 27, 2021 12:43 AM

Only one seed remains in the final four at the 2021 Winston-Salem Open. Carlos Alcaraz finds himself in his first ATP Tour hard court semifinal, having reached two others in 2021 both on clay.

The No. 15 seed battled through a lengthy first set and then swiftly dismissed Marcos Giron 7-6, 6-2, who was vying for his first ATP Tour semi. Alcaraz proved too much for the American only dropping eight points on his serve the entire match.

“The first set was a tough one. The difference in the tiebreak was how aggressively I played,” said Alcaraz.

The 18-year-old Spaniard picked up his first career ATP title this year (Umag) and is the youngest man to break into the top 75 since his idol Rafael Nadal did the same thing in 2003 when he was only 16. Should Alcaraz take the Winston-Salem Open title, he would ascend into the ATP’s top 50 and head into New York with significant momentum.

Alcaraz will take on Mikael Ymer, one of the three remaining semifinalists, all of whom are unseeded and seeking their maiden ATP Tour final.

“It’s going to be a really tough match. I played [Ymer] in Australia, and he beat me. I am ready, though, and I have the game to win.”

It was Ilya Ivashka who kicked off Thursday’s action and had the upset of day, sending top seed and World No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta off to New York. The Belarussian provided a serving clinic slamming 11 aces and winning 86% of his first serve points.

“It’s a great feeling. I like to play here. The conditions fit me, and it’s a great tournament. I am very happy right now,” said Ivashka. This is his third semifinal of the year.

Ivashka currently sits at No. 63 in the world but has taken down other top 20 players in 2021, including Alexander Zverev in Munich and Stan Wawrinka in Marseille. The title here would potentially push him 10 spots higher in the rankings.

Ivashka faces the Finnish breakout star, Emil Ruusuvuori, who is having a good hard court summer as well. The 22-year-old made the semis in Atlanta in July. Friday marks his third career semifinal. He defeated a noticeably fatigued No 14 seed Richard Gasquet 7-6, 6-1.

“It is very hot out there, and the first set was a very high level. I think the second set he was having some issues on the physical side. I was really happy with the way I came through.”

Ruusuvuori says he is ready for the challenge Ivashka will present.

“He’s been playing really consistently the last several months. He has some great results, and I think it’s going to be a really fun match. It’s going to come down to who plays the best time at the right times.”

Friday night was the right time for Mikael Ymer to reach his maiden semifinal going the distance against American Frances Tiafoe in the Thursday's third upset. Ymer dropped the first set in a tiebreaker but appeared undeterred snatching the second 6-2. At the start of the third, Tiafoe seemed toregain his form with five break points against the Ymer serve. The Swede kept a level head, though, fending off each one and then breaking Tiafoe for a 6-3 finish to the match.

Ymer said of his friend, “I think it was very important to stay composed. Frances is a really talented player. He can come up with great shots and variety in his game.”

The World No. 90 says he’s not done in Winston-Salem yet.

“I feel good. I spent a couple of weeks off training at home in Stockholm, so it feels good to be back out on court.”

The singles action begins after the doubles draw wraps up. The final on Friday is between two unseeded teams: Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek against Mercelo Arevalo and Matwe Middlekoop.

Earlier in the afternoon Arevalo/Matwe defeated the Austrian duo of Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald 6-3, 6-3.  Dodig and Krajicek then upset the 2019 champions and top seed Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6-3, 6-4.

Gates open at 3 p.m. with the first ball at 4 p.m.