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High Stakes Abound in Rolex Shanghai Masters Semis

High Stakes Abound in Rolex Shanghai Masters Semis
October 13, 2023

Proud career firsts have been achieved this year at Qi Zhong Tennis Center. 

Each of the four men remaining in the Rolex Shanghai Masters main draw are first-time semifinalists at the tournament. 

But there are even greatest milestones in sight, with the chance to claim a potentially career-defining title in Shanghai. There'll be hard-fought contests as players face off for a chance to progress to Sunday's championship match.

Hubert Hurkacz and Sebastian Korda bring an even head-to-head record into the first semifinal, with each man claiming a win in the two matches they've played. 

Korda was a five-set winner over the Pole in the Australian Open fourth round earlier this season. Hurkacz had earlier gained the edge in another high-stakes battle, claiming a straight-sets win in the Delray Beach in 2021. 

"I'm going to have to return really well again. For me, he's, honestly, one of the best servers on tour, he's got a super tricky serve," said the 26th-seeded American, who has earned wins this week over Yunchaokete Bu, Daniil Medvedev, Francisco Cerundolo and Ben Shelton. 

"He's a great athlete, goes to the net really well. So, yeah, it's going to be interesting, for sure. Hopefully, I return well, serve well, and we'll see what happens."

Hurkacz required three sets to advance in his last two matches ¬- against Zhang Zhizhen and Fabian Maroszan - and the No.16 seed expects another tough battle against Korda. 

"He just hits the ball super clean, he's really aggressive, and (is) just a really great player, great competitor," he said. 

There's also little to separate Andrey Rublev and Grigor Dimitrov when they meet in the second semifinal.

The head-to-head record between the two close friends stands at three wins apiece, with Dimitrov winning their most recent match in Vienna last year. 

In a seventh campaign at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, the 32-year-old Bulgarian has played some of his best tennis of the season - most emphatically demonstrated as he claimed first-time wins over No.1 seed Carlos Alcaraz and No.22 Nicolas Jarry.

He anticipates another strong challenge against Rublev, who is yet to drop a set in the four Shanghai matches he's played. 

"I think Andrey is, for me, the player who's been so, so consistent throughout, I mean, year-in and year-out," said Dimitrov, the No.18 seed.  "Amazing guy, amazing player, not much to say on that end. You know what's going to happen. 

"You know he's going to compete, you know he's going to hit everything that comes his way. I mean, overall, tremendous guy. I think I don't have enough words to describe on him."

Rublev, who at No.5 is the top seed remaining in Shanghai, is excited to face his friend for the first time in almost a year. 

"It's tough to play against Grigor because he's a great player and that we're friends is even better," said Rublev, who expects it will create a special atmosphere. 

"It's normal that in tennis you have to play friends or sometimes you have to play players that you don't like, or you don't like to face ... every week is different."

After untroubled wins over Quentin Halys, Adrian Mannarino, Tommy Paul and Ugo Humbert, Rublev takes impressive momentum into the match. 

"Sometimes I'm surprising even myself the way I'm playing," he smiled. 

"But like I said, we'll see. With me, you never know. Maybe tomorrow will be completely opposite story. Hopefully I will be able to keep this level."

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