Basilashvili Stuns Tsitsipas, Reaches First Masters Semifinal At Indian Wells

Nikoloz Basilashvili (photo: ATP Tour video)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, October 16, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

With top seed Daniil Medvedev eliminated earlier this week, the focus of the men’s draw of the BNP Paribas Open shifted to Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. Both were in action Friday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden as the bottom half of the draw wrapped up quarterfinal action.

However, as was the case with Medvedev, there were more unexpected results that further upset the ebb and flow of this year’s Indian Wells draw.

In the first quarterfinal match, the World No. 3 Tsitsipas from Greece faced No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, and it was followed by World No. 4 Zverev of Germany against No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz, the only remain American in the draw.

All four were appearing in their first Indian Wells quarterfinal round. And guess what? Basilashvili pulled off the second biggest upset of the week by defeating Tsitsipas, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, in two hours and nine minutes. Then, Fritz followed suit and beat Zverev, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), saving two match points. Suddenly, the semifinals will be contested a 21st seed, 23rd seed, 29th seed and 31st seed.

Credit goes to Basilashvili, who used a powerful groundstroke attack that yielded 31 winners and overcame 43 unforced errors. It also contributed toward breaking the Greek’s serve four times in five opportunities while taking advantage of 24 unforced errors by Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas, who earlier this season won a Masters 1000 title at Monte-Carlo, came in leading his head-to-head against Basilashvili 2-0 and reached the quarterfinals in six of this year’s seven ATP Masters 1000 events. So, Tsitsipas found himself in very familiar surroundings – not to mention that it was his ATP Tour-best 14th quarterfinal this season and he had already won a tour-leading 54 matches. It was Basilashvili’s first career Masters 1000 quarterfinal and eighth quarterfinal overall in 2021 – and now he’s into his first Masters 1000 semifinal.

“I have played really great matches this tournament,” the World No. 36 Basilashvili said during a post-match TV interview. Indeed, he’s quietly gone about beating Christopher Eubanks in straight sets, Alberto Ramos-Vinolas after rallying from a set-and-a-break down, No. 24 seed Karen Khachanov, also in straight sets, and now Tsitsipas.

“I was not that happy with how I played today but I was happy with how I managed my stress levels,” Basilashvili added. “First time in the quarterfinals and it is a big court an Stefanos is a super tough player. I had to keep my physical levels and energy levels in a really good shape because I knew mentally I would be a little bit tight and stressed.”

While Basilashvili has won a couple of ATP 250 tour-level titles this year, at Doha and Munich, he has his sights set on higher achievements. His last Top Five win was two years ago against the then-World No. 5 Zverev.

“I have spent a lot of time working hard,” Basilashvili said. “I have been playing really well. For me to overcome stressful moments I am really happy. I also found it here that the conditions don’t suit my game because the balls fly a lot. But this year, I am playing well.”

California cruising: Fritz beats another Top 20 foe

Meanwhile, Zverev and Fritz, meeting for the fourth time, found the German in search of his third ATP Masters 1000 title of the year to go with earlier triumphs in Madrid and Mason, Ohio. He had reached the quarterfinals in his past four ATP Masters 1000 tournaments. As for Fritz, he arrived with a clean slate of not dropping any sets while losing just seven games overall. His past two victories came against Italy’s World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini and No. 14 Jannik Sinner to reach his first career ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal and fifth quarterfinal overall this season.

As it happened, Fritz lost the first set 6-4 to Zverev, which nearly equaled the number of games he had lost in his three previous matches combined. Then, after he recovered to win the second set, Fritz benefited from an epic crumble by Zverev, who led 5-2 with a match point in the third set and 5-3 with a match point on his serve. Fritz saved them both.

By the time the third-set tie-break came about, it had been more than 25 minutes since Zverev had match point. He committed four double faults in the final set, two while serving for the match. Fritz turned out to be the tougher, more confident player, turning around a 2-5 deficit in the final set. He won the match over Zverev, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), in two hours and 21 minutes for his second career Top Five victory to advance against Basilashvili.

Fritz finished with 10 aces and 36 winners against 35 unforced errors, while Zverev had nine aces and 24 winners to 26 unforced errors. Fritz outpointed Zverev 100-92. Zverev had won 20 of his last 21 hard-court matches before Friday.

“I was really down and out but I found a way to put myself into it,” Fritz admitted during his on-court interview after his victory. “I really wanted to make him have to close me out and I was able to get back into the match.

“Normally, you would be so nervous in those situations and in the third set tie-break, but I felt so confident being aggressive, going after my game. It feels really great to play well with the pressure on.”

The Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. resident, making his fifth appearance at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, had plenty of crowd support during his quarterfinal match on Stadium 1, which he acknowledged afterward.

“It is amazing,” Fritz said. “Especially the way that the match ended with such high emotions with the crowd. The crowd was amazing and it is a dream come true.”

Now, the 23-year-old Fritz, who has reached three semifinals this season – at Doha, Cagliari and Los Cabos – will to to avenge his Doha semifinal defeat against Basilashvili. He played him one other time this season, the following week in Dubai and won their second-round match.

Looking ahead to the semifinals

On Saturday, the two Friday winners, Basilashvili and Fritz, will face off in one semifinal while the other will match No. 21 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain against No. 23 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Both have been nice surprises during the fortnight in the southern California palm desert, knocking out higher-seeded opponents along the way.  It will mark the first time since 1999 in Indian Wells that all four players will be making their Masters 1000 semifinal debut.

Karatsev and Rublev reach first Masters 1000 doubles final

Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev, both of Russia, are more well known for their talent as singles players. However, during the Indian Wells fortnight, they’ve made a pretty formidable doubles duo, too. On Friday night, they reached their first ATP Masters 1000 final as a team with their 6-3, 4-6, 10-5 victory over Tim Puetz of Germany and Michael Venus of New Zealand.

The Russians fell behind 0-3 in the match tie-break before winning 10 of the final 12 points to wrap up the semifinal victory on Stadium 2.

Karatsev and Rublev, who won the doubles title at Doha earlier this season, will face No. 7 seeds John Peers of Australia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia, who defeated No. 8 seeds Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, 6-4, 7-6 (1), in Saturday evening’s double final.

Friday’s BNP Paribas Open results

Saturday’s BNP Paribas Open order of play

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

“Today was just not really my day, to be honest. I was close to winning, but the level of tennis was just not quite there for me. Fritz played a great match. He deserves to be in the semifinals. Today, mentally is not easy for me.

“I have played well. But this one hurts because I knew that after Stefanos lost this morning, I was kind of the favorite to win this tournament, but my tennis wasn’t there.”

Alexander Zverev of Germany, World No. 4 and third seed, during press after his quarterfinal loss to Taylor Fritz.