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Harris stuns Thiem, Rublev stretches ATP 500 winning run

Pulling off the biggest upset of this year’s tournament, Lloyd Harris stunned top seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

The world No.81 from South Africa took 72 minutes to knock out the world No.4 at the Centre court.

This is Harris’ first win against a Top Five player. He will meet 14th seed Filip Krajinovic for a place in the quarter-final. Krajinovic defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-5, 6-4.

Earlier, second seed Andrey Rublev stretched his winning streak at 500-level tournaments to 21 matches with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori.

Chasing a fifth straight ATP 500 crown, the world No.8 took one hour and 16 minutes to beat Ruusuvuori.

The rising Russian star will next face 15th seed Taylor Fritz, who overcame a set deficit to battle past Doha winner Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.

Rublev, who won his fourth ATP 500 tour singles title after beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the final of the Rotterdam Open in the first week of March, earned a single break in each set and fired six aces to secure spot in the third round.

His continued form has made him one of the top players in men’s tennis since play resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic last year. Since September he has won titles at Hamburg Open, St Petersburg and Vienna Open.

“There is no secret to my streak. It just happened… I was not focused on this. It just happened that I did well in these ATP 500 tournaments and I am really happy with my performance,” said Rublev.

Rublev slams ranking system: The 23-year-old Moscow native also slammed the current ATP ranking system and said it does not work in his favour.

ATP introduced the revised ranking system to protect players who are unable to travel and compete because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the new system, players can add points to their tally, they do not drop the points accumulated from the previous season.

Joining the growing list of players who are against the revised ranking system, Rublev said: “If we would have the normal system, I would be like No.4 in the world I think. So what do you think is better for me, to be No.8 or No.4?” he quipped.

Recently, Alexander Zverev described the revised system as ‘absurd’ because he is ranked lower than Roger Federer even though the Swiss missed an entire year due to knee surgery.

Making his Dubai debut, third seed Denis Shapovalov brushed aside Jan-Lennard Struff 6-1, 6-3 to reach the third round of the tournament.

Despite losing all the four previous meetings against Struff, the world No.12 from Canada showed no signs of pressure and broke his German rival twice and won the first set 6-1.

Claiming two more breaks in the second set, Shapovalov advanced to the third round where he will meet 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4.

“I knew it was a very difficult match. I’ve had difficulties with him in the past, so I knew it was going to be a tough match for me, but I feel any match is a new match and it’s always starting from zero, so the past doesn’t really mean much.

“I definitely played very well. I was just trying to pick my target on my serve to be honest, playing the way I’ve been playing in practice. I didn’t really change my game plan compared to the other times I played him.

“I was just trying to make a lot of returns, to place the ball on my serve, and I was able to put a lot of pressure from the beginning on the returns and I think he felt that pressure and started throwing in a couple of double faults.”

Former world No.4 Kei Nishikori downed fifth seed 6-3 7-6 to set up a third round clash with Aljaz Bedene.

Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev continued his remarkable run of success since the season began by overcoming number 12 seed and 2020 semi-finalist Dan Evans 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

It took Karatsev two hours and 22 minutes to overcome a resilient Evans. The Russian ended a run of three successive first set breaks by leading 4-3, and fortunes swung one way and then the other in the second set as Evans rallied from 2-4 to level the match.

The final set was even more closely contested, with Karatsev breaking in the first game but then having to fight off two break points as he served out the match.

Eighth seed Karen Khachanov was stretched to the limit by tournament wild card Alexei Popyrin, edging through 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4) after a gruelling two hours 16 minutes. Popyrin won the first title of his career last month in Singapore, and once worked as a ball kid at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Malek Jaziri’s tournament was ended 7-5, 6-2 by 11th seed Dusan Lajovic while Jannik Sinner edged past Alexander Bublik 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 and 17th seed Lorenzo Sonego overwhelmed qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-2, 6-2.

Sinner will next play fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut after the 2017 winner champion progressed following opponent Mathew Ebden’s retirement.

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