In what has to be one of the most shocking Masters 1000 semi finals for a long time, Jan Lennard Struff and Aslan Karatsev will face off in the night session in Madrid. It will be their second meeting of the tournament with this being a final qualifying round match last week, where Karatsev comfortably won 6-4 6-2.
Karatsev’s run here has definitely been both the more unlikely and impressive of the two. With the full impact of his Australian Open 2021 semi final points falling off, he fell outside the Top 100 and was not looking like a player who would return to the top 20 any time soon. Ranked 121, he beat three seeds including Alex de Minaur and Daniil Medvedev on his way here and will now be closing back in on a top 50 spot. He ended another shock run in the quarter finals, easing past Zhizhen Zhang in straight sets. “I am happy with my condition. Back to the top level,” Karatsev said. “Playing well and feeling well. From the qualifying, match by match, it has got harder, so mentally you have to be there more. Because your opponent doesn’t give you any free points so you have to be there yourself. The important thing is now recover well.”
It looked like Struff’s time at the tournament would come to an end in the previous round with Stefanos Tsitsipas a big step up from previous opponents in not the toughest of draws. However, he delivered the stellar serving performance that was needed and would go on to win in three sets 7-6 5-7 6-3. The key difference can be seen in the break point stats, where Tsitsipas went 1/10 and Struff went 1/1 – with that break coming at the start of the deciding set.
With both men having played seven matches over the last two weeks, tiredness may well be kicking in. Karatsev has grown in confidence as the week has gone on and has to be considered the favourite in this one, especially given the ease of his victory in qualifying. He hit 30 winners in his win over Zhang and another similar number here would surely be enough, especially if Struff is even just a tiny bit more vulnerable on serve.
Prediction – Aslan Karatsev in three sets