De Minaur beat Rublev
Alex de Minaur enjoyed taking a measure of revenge in Rotterdam against his Aussie Open conqueror. Image by EPA PHOTO
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De Minaur avenges Rublev defeat to make Rotterdam semis

Ian Chadband February 17, 2024

Alex de Minaur has earned sweet revenge over his Melbourne tormentor Andrey Rublev to set up a birthday semi-final date with Grigor Dimitrov at the Rotterdam Open.

But as he turns 25, the Australian No.1 de Minaur will certainly be hoping Bulgarian Dimitrov doesn”t play party pooper again in the same way he did at on the same day at the Dutch tournament last year.

“I played him on my birthday, and he was rude enough to beat me when I was two match points up,” recalled de Minaur ruefully on Friday after avenging his Australian Open defeat to Rublev by beating the Russian 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3 in the quarter-finals at the Rotterdam Ahoy complex.

“I’m playing Grigor tomorrow (on Saturday), which will be my birthday again – so I’m hoping he’s a little bit nicer to me. We’ll see…”

Not that de Minaur feels he needs any presents at the moment, because his two-and-a-half hour win over the world No.5 demonstrated that he’s fully recovered from the shattering late-night loss to Rublev in Melbourne four weeks ago, when he was forced to swallow a 6-0 ‘bagel’ in the fifth-set denouement.

In another predictably tight contest between the pair who’d shared the wins in their previous six meetings, world No.11 de Minaur persuaded himself he just had to “go for it” against the Russian who’d seemingly packed too much power for him in the Australian Open.

“I kept telling myself to be brave and go after it, because ultimately I can’t just run around against Andrey,” explained de Minaur after a win which may ensure he re-enters the top 10 in next week’s rankings.

“Andrey’s got too much power, too many weapons, and he’ll just dictate me from one side to the other.

“So if I want to be effective against Andrey, I’ve got to back myself, I’ve got to try to be aggressive and hit the ball flatter and bigger than I normally do. In big moments, I played great – and it got me the win today.”

Nothing was more impressive than de Minaur’s brilliance in the opening-set tiebreaker when, at 4-2 down, he came up with three dazzling points in a row to wrest control.

Rublev hit back when de Minaur gifted a break early in the second set with a double fault which proved decisive, but in the decider the Australian showed why he’s now won six of his last 10 matches against top-five opponents as he earned the key break in the sixth game of the decider.

Dimitrov, a winner at the Brisbane International at the start of the season, booked his ticket for the birthday bash by outlasting Russian-born Kazakh Alexander Shevchenko 7-6 (7-2) 3-6  6-4 after a rare old tussle.

Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner reached the semi-finals after Milos Raonic was forced to retire through injury.

Sinner won the first set 7-6 (7-4) and the second set was tied at 1-1 when the Canadian retired for the second successive tournament.

Former world No.3 Raonic, who had a two-year injury lay-off between 2021 and 2023, retired with a leg issue when playing de Minaur at the Australian Open last month.