Krejcikova ends Sabalenka streak, Murray wins again and Medvedev vs. Auger-Aliassime 2

Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in action against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in her quarter-final match on Day 5 of the Dubai Duty Free...

Barbora Krejcikova rallied from a bagel set down to end Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka’s 13-match unbeaten run with a spirited comeback win on another busy day of tennis worldwide. Andy Murray again prevailed in three sets and now faces Andrey Rublev’s conqueror Jiri Lehecka, while Felix Auger-Aliassime hopes for a different outcome at Daniil Medvedev’s expense later today – a repeat of last week’s Rotterdam quarter-final matchup beckons.

Comeback victories, renewed meetings and withdrawals

Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts during quarterfinal match against Alexandre Muller of France at the ATP Qatar Exxonmobil Open tennis tournament...
That man again: Murray is into the semifinals after a three-set win over French qualifier Muller
  • “I was just fighting for every ball, never gonna leave without a fight, definitely the Czech fans helped. Felt at home, like in Ostrava,” Krejcikova reflects, appreciates crowd support after ending Sabalenka’s winning run
  • “Everything depends on small moments: sometimes confidence, or pure luck. I’ve won and lost some close matches in my life, just trying to use my experience to make it better,” Medvedev after edging past O’Connell
  • “I hope I can do better than last week, it’s a chess game to play him. He’s one of the toughest, was world no. 1 for a reason, one of the best we’ve seen,” Auger-Aliassime on attempting to solve the Medvedev conundrum

Andy Murray will be thankful he finished just after the two hour mark, eventually ousting French qualifier Alexandre Muller 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 in their first-ever H2H meeting.

With 100 ranking spots between the pair at the start of this week, the 26-year-old responded well from 2-0, 30-0 down and a two-handed backhand winner down the line saw him break straight back before continuity saw him win the set outright.

It meant the 35-year-old was forced to dig deep again, being more assertive on points behind his first serve and the unforced error count reduced dramatically.

Muller, playing his 10th match in a fourth tournament of February alone, couldn’t keep that high performance level up long enough to stay within touching distance.

Afterwards, he had this to say:

“Had to start going for my shots a lot more, first set I wasn’t doing enough with the ball, he was dictating points and making me run… had to take a few more chances, come to the net when I got the opportunity.

He [Muller] had an excellent tournament, some good wins, played very well, hopefully with more experience he’ll be back here. 

Jiri Lehecka of Czech Republic reacts during quarterfinal match against Andrey Rublev of Russia at the ATP Qatar Exxonmobil Open tennis tournament...

I’m sure some of you watched him [Lehecka] today… he’s one of the best young players on the tour, hits a huge ball from the back of the court, big test for me and hopefully I can put on a good performance.”

He’ll play Australian Open quarterfinalist Jiri Lehecka later today (from 2.30pm BST), after the Czech’s three-set win over Andrey Rublev earlier in the day.

He too rallied from a set down, avenging a defeat 10 months in the making against the 2022 Belgrade champion.

On the other side of the draw, Australia’s Chris O’Connell pushed 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev all the way but lost 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Just when a deciding set tiebreak seemed inevitable, the Russian responded well with clever ball-striking and anticipation on the 28-year-old’s serve, forcing mistakes.

One at the net, match point down, rather typified how Medvedev can make opponents miss when he’s playing inspired tennis like he did in sporadic stages.

He’ll have to be better against Felix Auger-Aliassime today (from 4pm BST), after the Canadian rose to the challenge with big serving and booming groundstrokes, passing a competitive test in Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

He leads their H2H 5-0, and beat the 22-year-old rather comprehensively en route to last week’s Rotterdam title. Will it be another case of deja vu here?

Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula were both treated to walkover wins over Karolina Pliskova and Karolina Muchova respectively, as the Dubai semi-finals are set.

The world no. 1 will face Coco Gauff for the sixth time and, much like Medvedev against Auger-Aliassime, she boasts a 5-0 H2H record against the American teenager.

It’ll be interesting to see if last year’s French Open runner-up can make this contest more competitive, after winning 6-2, 7-5 against compatriot Madison Keys.

The other semifinal is a repeat of the Australian Open last-16 clash: Pegula vs. Krejcikova, after the 2021 French Open champion’s recovery win over Sabalenka.

A 67-minute first set in Melbourne suggested it’d be a lengthy battle, but the Czech faded rather quickly in set two last month and will expect more from herself after a morale-boosting result.

She acknowledged Sabalenka’s superb start didn’t allow her to get into much of a rhythm early on, but knew there would be a performance level drop-off.

There almost always is, regardless of who’s on the other side, but managing to convert opportunities is easier said than done.

Both played well for sustained periods in set two, Krejcikova’s first serve points won (19/24) were considerably higher than set one (2/13) and into a tiebreak they went.

Sabalenka was, at one stage, just two points from a semi-final berth. She won the first point of the breaker too, before producing a rather forgettable sequence of poor play which abruptly ended her own 4-0 unbeaten tiebreak record in 2023.

Successive double-faults appeared, down 2-1, and Krejcikova didn’t need any additional fuel to power her resurgence as she said afterwards.

“They eased up the situation, supporting me, telling me funny words [in Czech] to loosen up. It felt really good, I felt at home – like at Ostrava. It was an amazing atmosphere, thanks so much, a great feeling.”

She’ll need more of that to avenge the Pegula defeat today (from 3pm BST).

Elsewhere, here’s the state of play in other tournaments this week…

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates a point against Fabio Fognini of Italy during day four of ATP 500 Rio Open presented by Claro at Jockey Club Brasileiro on...
Alcaraz celebrates after winning a point against Fabio Fognini – he’s into the quarters

ATP500 – Rio Open, quarter-finals
Carlos Alcaraz [1] vs. Dusan Lajovic
Nicolas Jarry [Q] vs. Sebastian Baez [6]
Albert Ramos Vinolas [7] vs. Bernarbe Zapata Miralles
Hugo Dellien [PR] vs. Cameron Norrie [2]
WTA250 – Mexico, QFs
Magda Linette [1] vs. Rebecca Peterson [Q]
Caty McNally vs. Kimberly Birrell [Q]
Elisabetta Cocciaretto [7] vs. Katerina Siniakova [4]
Camila Giorgi vs. Sloane Stephens [2]
ATP250 – Marseille, QFs
Hubert Hurkacz [1] vs. Mikael Ymer
Grigor Dimitrov [4] vs. Alexander Bublik
Benjamin Bonzi vs. Alex de Minaur [3]
Stan Wawrinka vs. Arthur Fils [WC]

Picture source: Getty Images — player quotes via Amazon Prime broadcast