Casper Ruud leads the quarterfinals line-up of the 2023 Hamburg European Open. In front of 7,000 spectators and under a closed roof on Center Court, the top seed of the ATP 500 event overcame a one-set deficit to battle past Chilean qualifier Cristian Garin 1-6, 6-2, 6-2. On Thursday afternoon, the World No. 4 had to cope with a strong opponent, who seemed to have the right answers for all of the questions Ruud was asking in the first set.
With powerful serves, precise shots, and strategic gameplay, Ruud eventually managed to gain control over the five-time ATP Tour champion from South America. The 24-year-old Norwegian withstood 26 winners from Garin and broke his serve four times to advance in one hour and 38 minutes.
“Cristian played much better than me in the beginning, broke me right away. He was firing from all corners of the court, and I had no answers to his game,” Ruud said. “I was just trying to stay in the second and told myself to keep going, maybe you will get a small chance here or there.
“At 2-2, I was able to break him and then things kind of changed. The match turned around. The following game I held my serve despite being 0-40 down and gained a 4-2 lead. Although the result looked a bit clear in the end, only a couple of points can decide a match. I am happy that I fought well.”
Ruud now owns an 11-2 record on clay across his last 13 matches and continues his quest for a second tour-level triumph of the season after Estoril in April against #NextGenATP Frenchman Arthur Fils on Friday. The 19-year-old edged past Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 7-5, 7-5 on Court M1 to reach the stage of the final eight at an ATP 500 event for the first time.
“I am happy because this is a big tournament here. Dusan has a big backhand. I tried to make him move and served better, which helped me to win the match. I am looking forward to the quarterfinals,” Fils said.
Altmaier ousts Rublev
Later in the afternoon, Daniel Altmaier secured his second Top 10 win of the season following his upset over Jannik Sinner at Roland Garros in early June. The 24-year-old German knocked out No. 2 seed and last week’s Bastad champion Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-2. Altmaier struck seven aces and won 85 per cent of his first-service points to prevail after one hour and 14 minutes.
“I had played four times in Hamburg before and lost all of my first-round matches, but I was really looking forward to this week playing this clay swing in Europe. So, this win feels special. I am glad that I am through but it’s not over yet,” said Altmaier, who has cracked the Top 50 in the ATP Live Rankings for the first time in his career.
“It wasn’t easy for Andrey coming from the title win in Bastad and having another tough match yesterday. At the same time, I was here to do my job and executed well.”
Besides his success on the big stage, Altmaier hasn’t been afraid to dip down into the ATP Challenger Circuit, competing in four events this season. “The victory at the ATP Challenger 125 in Sarasota was one of the most important title wins of my career,” he explained. “The Challenger Tour is very competitive. We have to consider that there are guys, who don’t have the financial support from home, but they are just making their way through. I am sure that there will be more good players coming from Challengers in the next few months and years.”
Altmaier will next face Zhizhen Zhang of China, a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 winner over Yannick Hanfmann from Germany.
Musetti passes Kovalik test
Lorenzo Musetti, who claimed the title on his Hamburg debut here last year, came from a set down to win the resumption of his battle against Slovakian lucky loser Jozef Kovalik 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. On Wednesday, Kovalik had won the first set but was trailing in the second 1-4. Musetti, however, was more aggressive today and secured victory in two hours and five minutes.
“I put a physical and fighting spirit on the court today,” said Musetti. “I was not finding my best tennis. There was a lot of frustration inside me. I was a bit lucky, but I took the chances he gave me. Sometimes tennis is like this. Today was just important to get the win.” Up next for the third-seeded Italian will be Laslo Djere of Serbia.
Saville advances, Noha Akugue surprises and Pera falls
On the women’s side, Australian qualifier Daria Saville, who was absent from the tour due to an injury suffered at Tokyo last year and only recently returned to the courts in Birmingham last month, has continued her great run of form this week by reaching the semi-finals of the WTA 250 event. The World No. 225 knocked off German wild card entry Jule Niemeier 6-3, 6-2 in the opening match of the day on Center Court. Saville converted seven of her 12 break-point opportunities to succeed in one hour and 35 minutes.
“I won most of the long games and overall, I played very clean today,” Saville said after notching her fifth match win in her Hamburg debut. “Coming into this tournament I didn’t have any expectations and I still don’t have any. I haven’t played that many matches in a while, especially after the injury. I am just excited to get the opportunity to play another match tomorrow.”
Saville will next oppose No. 7 seed Arantxa Rus, who broke home hearts by ending the run of local wild card entry Eva Lys. The lefty from the Netherlands won 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 16 minutes by showing her great defensive skills and patience.
“I played really good today. I was aggressive and served well. The first set was very close. Eva was a tough opponent,” Rus said.
In the top half of the draw, the magical week teenager Noma Noha Akugue is enjoying continues. On a packed Court M1, the 19-year-old wild card entry from Hamburg secured her first spot in a tour-level semi-final after knocking out World No. 76 Martina Trevisan of Italy 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 in two hours and 42 minutes.
“I am very proud of myself. Thanks to everyone, who came out to support me. I am just speechless but very happy,” Noha Akugue said following the biggest achievement of her career. “The thoughts of winning the match were big. I was very nervous, and I had to fight with myself, but I managed it in the end.”
Noah Akugue will next take on Diana Shnaider, who defeated defending champion Bernarda Pera from the United States 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in one hour and 46 minutes.