by Florian Heer
French teenager Arthur Fils produced the performance of his young career by knocking out World No. 4 Casper Ruud of Norway in Friday’s quarterfinals of the Hamburg European Open in straight sets. In front of 9,000 spectators on Center Court, the 19-year-old did a demolition job and outplayed the top seed of the ATP 500 event by hitting 25 forehand winners.
Fils, a native of Bondoufle, France, dominated most of the rallies from the baseline and delivered an impressive first set when he bageled the two-time French Open runner-up in exactly 40 minutes. The World No. 71, who captured his maiden tour-level crown on home soil in Lyon two months ago, converted four of his nine break-point opportunities to secure a 6-0, 6-4 victory in one hour and 17 minutes.
“I am really happy about it. Of course, it was a tough match. I had some good tactics with my coach and the believe that I can win. I tried to play my game and played my best today,” said Fils after beating his first Top-10 opponent.
“I knew that he has a very good forehand, which makes you run a lot. I tried to go over his backhand and this worked out pretty well. I did a great match, but I know I have to focus on tomorrow’s semis.”
Zverev continues quest for first Hamburg title
Fils’ next challenge will be against hometown hero and No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev, who beat another #NextGenATP Frenchman, 19-year-old Luca van Assche, 6-3, 6-4. Zverev was solid on his serve throughout. He struck eight aces and won 80 per cent of his first-service points to succeed in one hour and 29 minutes.
“He was playing extremely well, especially in the second set but I didn’t do too much wrong. He improved his level a lot and was so aggressive,” said Zverev after reaching the stage of the last four for the fifth time this season. “He was quick on his backhand, which it made it uncomfortable for me. He sometimes took the racket out of my hand. It was very difficult, but I am very happy with the win and being in the semi-finals.”
The 19th-ranked German expects another tight match on Saturday: “When you look at Arthur, you could think that he is 26 and has been on the tour for 10 years,” Zverev said, adding that Fils is physically stronger than van Assche.
Zhang reaches first semi-final on the ATP Tour
In the bottom half of the draw, No. 79 Zhizhen Zhang secured his first spot in the semi-final of an ATP Tour event. The 26-year-old from China defeated Daniel Altmaier of Germany 6-4, 6-4. Zhang, a three-time Challenger champion, saved both of his two break points he faced and capitalized on three of his own five break-point chances to advance in one hour and 23 minutes.
“It’s not easy to face a German player at home but I am happy about the way I played,” said Zhang. “I am still surprised achieving these results on clay. Yesterday I was excited. Today I was a bit tired but also very focused. I hope that I can continue like that.”
Djere downs Musetti
Meanwhile, Court M1, situated in the shadow of the Center Court has turned into a graveyard of champions at the Hamburg European Open. Following yesterday’s loss from 2022 women’s winner Bernarda Pera, defending men’s champion and No. 3 seed Lorenzo Musetti fell in the stage of the final eight to Laslo Djere 7-5, 6-3 today. The 28-year-old Serbian broke Musetti’s serve three times to prevail after one hour and 28 minutes. Next, Djere will face Zhang for a spot in Sunday’s title match.