Ramos-Vinolas Runs Estoril Winning Streak To Eight

Albert Ramos-Vinolas (photo: Millennium Estoril Open)

ESTORIL/WASHINGTON, April 29, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Defending Millennium Estoril Open champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas moved a win closer to successfully defending his ATP 250 clay-court title in the Portuguese Riviera Friday.

In a quarterfinal battle among left-handed Spaniards, the sixth-seeded Ramos-Vinolas defeated 118th-ranked lucky loser Fernando Verdasco, 6-2, 6-2, to advance to Saturday’s semifinal round against 59th-ranked Sebastian Baez of Argentina. It was their 11th meeting going back to 2012 and the victory gave Ramos-Vinolas a 6-5 edge in their career head-to-head – including 6-2 on clay.

The 34-year-old Barcelona-born Ramos-Vinolas, who now resides in Mataró, Spain, has garnered eight straight victories in Estoril going back to last year’s tournament and two of them have come against Verdasco. Last year, Ramos-Vinolas prevailed over the 38-year-old Madrid native, 6-3, 6-3, in a first-round match.

While Ramos-Vinolas was pushed to three sets during both of his earlier matches this week, against No. 87 Jordan Thompson of Australia and No. 71 Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea, this time he closed out Verdasco in straight sets, in back of winning 69 percent (36 of 52) of his service points and more than half (28 of 55) of his return points. Ramos-Vinolas saved the only break point he faced and he outpointed Verdasco 62-43.

“I think it’s always difficult to play against a player that you know a lot,” Ramos-Vinolas said during an on-court interview after his victory. “We’ve played a lot of times and it was a difficult match. I think I played very serious from the beginning until the end and I’m really happy because I beat a really good opponent.”

Next, Ramos-Vinolas will oppose the surprising 21-year-old Baez, who rallied to beat 2015 Estoril champion Richard Gasquet of France, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and 55 minutes. The victory assured Baez will break into the Top 50 next week and it improved to 13-11 this season. Now, he’s a win away from reaching his second ATP tour-level final of the season following his deep run in Santiago in February.

“All the matches this week have been difficult and today was no different,” said Baez, who has been signing the camera lens “Why not me?” after each of his wins. “I expect another real battle tomorrow.”

Baez, who broke the 80th-ranked Gasquet’s serve five times in six tries, outpointed the 35-year-old French veteran 84-73.

Meanwhile, Friday’s evening session, to decide the other semifinalists, paired No. 4 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain against No. 5 seed Frances Tiafoe of the United States followed by No. 1 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada taking on No. 8 seed Sebastian Korda of the United States. It resulted in a pair of upsets that will match Tiafoe and Korda in Saturday’s second semifinal.

First, the World No. 29 Tiafoe rallied from 2-5 down in the final set and won the last five games of the two-hour and 59-minute quarterfinal to beat No. 28 Davidovich Fokina, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-5.

Tiafoe broke the Spaniard in each of his last two service games and converted four of eight break points during the match. He outpointed his opponent 132-131. The American’s victory kept Davidovich Fokina from reaching his third Estoril semifinal in the past four years and it put Tiafoe a win from reaching his second Estoril final following his run to the title match in 2018.

“I knew it was going to be a very tough match. He’s playing some of the best tennis of his life,” Tiafoe said during his on-court interview. “I’m really not feeling my best, but the crowd made it fun. Now, let’s enjoy the weekend and hope we can win the whole thing.”

Next, Korda, who has a career winning record on all three surfaces – including 14-7 on clay – sent World No. 10 Auger-Aliassime down to defeat in straight sets. The No. 37 Korda was impressive in winning 6-2, 6-2 in an hour and 29 minutes. It was his third career Top 10 victory.

Korda took a double-break 4-1 lead in the opening set, then added three more breaks of Auger-Aliassime’s serve in the second set. He put away the victory on his second match-point opportunity when the Canadian netted a fourth-shot backhand return. There was visible joy and excitement on Korda’s face as he’s into his first semifinal of the season. The 21-year-old American outpointed Auger-Aliassime 62-47.

“It was far from being easy,” Korda said in his post-match on-court interview. “Felix is always a tough player to play. I lost to him in Acapulco last year. I learned a lot from that match and I played a really good one today.”

Around the Estoril Open

No. 1 doubles seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Michael Venus of New Zealand advanced to the semifinal round with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan and Asian-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan. They will face Portuguese wild cards Nuno Borges and Francisco Cabral in Saturday’s semifinal round. Borges and Cabral defeated American duo Nathanial Lamont’s and Tommy Paul, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 10-6.

The other semifinal will match No. 4 seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan of Japan against Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina and Andre Goransson of Sweden.

Friday’s Millennium Estoril Open results

Saturday’s Millennium Estoril Open order of play

By the numbers

Defending Millennium Estoril Open champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas is 13-6 on clay this season. He’s won one title, at Cordoba, and reached semifinals at Santiago and Estoril.