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De Minaur finds Tsitsipas too good again

Alex de Minaur gave everything as always – but still his typically valiant effort against Stefanos Tsitsipas came to a predictably anti-climactic end in their high-quality World Tennis Tournament quarter-final in Rotterdam.

It was another chastening afternoon for the Australian No.1 who lacks nothing in heart but simply couldn’t cope with the extra firepower of the Greek, who beat him for the eighth time in succession in the Dutch indoor tournament.

Tsitsipas’s 6-4 6-4 victory in just over an hour-and-a-half on Friday showcased the world No.4 at his best as he seeks to capitalise on his recent fine run to the semi-finals in the Australian Open.

In de Minaur, he found a game opponent willing to chase down everything but one who he always knows he has the ammunition to counter.

These two contemporaries have now played 10 times in the pro ranks over the past five years and Tsitsipas has won nine – including each of the last eight – while dropping only five sets.

To say it’s a match-up that the Greek enjoys is an understatement.

In a familiar pattern, 22-year-old de Minaur quickly found himself on the backfoot, trying to hold on desperately to his serve in the fifth game of the opening set as Tsitsipas hammered the piledriver groundstrokes, earning five break points.

When he earned a sixth, the dam burst for Sydney’s world No.34, who double faulted to give away the key break that led to Tsitsipas taking the first set in 46 minutes.

Absolutely dominant behind his first serve in that first set, Tsitsipas started racing away with the match by earning two more quick breaks but it says everything about de Minaur’s battling attitude that he managed to briefly stem the tidal wave of 22 winners and earn his first break.

But Tsitsipas, winning 27 of 33 points behind his first serve, always seemed in control, the 23-year-old top seed moving smoothly towards what would, surprisingly, be his very first ATP 500 title.

His semi-final opponent on Saturday will be Czech qualifier, world No.137 Jiri Lehecka, who continued his surprise run with a 6-3 1-6 7-5 win over Italian Lorenzo Musetti.

Yet for de Minaur, hammered by Jannik Sinner in Melbourne, it will be back to the drawing board as he seeks yet again to make that elusive step from being a worthy, nuisance challenger against the very best players to becoming their conqueror.

Canadian No.3 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime was taking on Britain’s sixth seed Cameron Norrie, while Russian No.2 seed Andrey Rublev was facing Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in the other quarter-finals later on Friday.

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