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Preview: Taylor Fritz vs. Andrey Rublev - prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Friday's Madrid Open semi-final between Taylor Fritz and Andrey Rublev, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

Two first-time Madrid Open semi-finalists butt heads on Friday, as 12th seed Taylor Fritz and seventh seed Andrey Rublev reunite at La Caja Magica.

The American overcame Francisco Cerundolo in three sets to reach the final four, while Rublev silenced the Spanish crowd by coming from behind to beat reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz.

Match preview

Taylor Fritz reacts at the Madrid Open on May 1, 2024© Reuters

A landmark victory for several reasons, Fritz had not dropped a set in his first three Madrid contests with Luciano Darderi, Sebastian Baez and Hubert Hurkacz before pitting his wits against Cerundolo, where another routine win was seemingly on the cards.

The American would ultimately be taken the distance in a drop-shots galore match, but he consigned a second-set blip to the past and prevailed 6-1 3-6 6-3, thereby making the Madrid final four for the first time and earning his 250th top-level triumph in the process.

Following the conclusion of the one-hour and 46-minute battle, in which he won 83% of points behind his first serve and committed just 14 unforced errors, Fritz ended the USA's 19-year wait for another male Madrid Open semi-finalist after Robby Ginepri's run to the last four in 2005.

However, the American faithful have to go back 22 years for the last time that one of their own triumphed in the men's singles - Andre Agassi lifted the crown in 2002 - and Fritz will be taking part in just his fourth semi-final at ATP 1000 level on Friday.

Two of the 12th seed's previous three such matches - at Indian Wells 2021 and last year's Monte-Carlo Masters - have seen him bow out, but on the only occasion that he prevailed in a Masters semi-final at Indian Wells 2022, he went on to lift the crown with victory over Rafael Nadal in the showpiece.

Andrey Rublev reacts at the Madrid Open on May 1, 2024© Reuters

Speaking of Spaniards being sunk, Alcaraz's dreams of a Madrid three-peat came to an unexpected end in Wednesday's quarter-final with Rublev, who competed in the presence of footballing legends in the shape of Raul, David Villa and Luka Modric.

The former two were among thousands of Spanish spectators left dejected and dumbfounded at the end of the one-hour and 59-minute battle, as Rublev made it through to his maiden Madrid semi with a 4-6 6-3 6-2 victory over the 2022 and 2023 champion.

As Alcaraz continued to hold back on his vicious forehand with his right arm heavily strapped, Rublev's powerful groundstrokes were not inhibited whatsoever, and a man whose short fuse has so often cost him at the top level managed to channel his emotions into useful aggression on the clay this time around.

The Russian remarkably saved seven of the eight break points he faced against the reigning champion, albeit while only taking three of his 13 such chances, and as well as hailing his serve for getting him out of sticky situations, 30 winners did not do him any harm either.

A significant obstacle to Masters title number two has been removed for both Rublev and Fritz, as the withdrawal of top seed Jannik Sinner through injury means that either Felix Auger-Aliassime, Daniil Medvedev or Jiri Lehecka will stand in the victor's way of Madrid mastery.

Tournament so far

Taylor Fritz:

First round: Bye
Second round: vs. Luciano Darderi 7-6[1] 6-4
Third round: vs. Sebastian Baez 6-2 6-3
Round of 16: vs. Hubert Hurkacz 7-6[2] 6-4
Quarter-final: vs. Francisco Cerundolo 6-1 3-6 6-3

Andrey Rublev:

First round: Bye
Second round: vs. Facundo Bagnis 6-1 6-4
Third round: vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6[10] 6-4
Round of 16: vs. Tallon Griekspoor 6-2 6-4
Quarter-final: vs. Carlos Alcaraz 4-6 6-3 6-2

Head To Head

Laver Cup (2023) - Round Robin: Fritz wins 6-2 7-6[3]
Monte-Carlo Masters (2023) - Semi-finals: Rublev wins 5-7 6-1 6-3
Cincinnati Open (2022) - Last 16: Fritz wins 6-7[4] 6-2 7-5
Indian Wells Masters (2022) - Semi-final: Fritz wins 7-5 6-4
Paris Masters (2021) - Second round: Fritz wins 7-5 7-6[2]
Dubai Tennis Championships (2021) - Last 16: Rublev wins 6-3 6-1
Next Gen ATP Finals (2018) - Round Robin: Rublev wins 4-2 1-4 3-4[4] 4-3[2] 4-2
Indian Wells Masters (2018) - Second round: Fritz wins 6-4 7-6[4]

Familiar foes on the ATP Tour, Fritz and Rublev will be facing off for the ninth time at the top level this week, and it is the American who boasts the slight edge with five victories compared to three for the world number seven.

Four of the last five battles have gone the way of Fritz, including a straight-sets success at last year's Laver Cup, but the only meeting between the two men on clay so far saw Rublev succeed, in a Masters semi-final no less.

The Russian 26-year-old flaunted his powers of recovery in that match too, coming from a set down to beat Fritz in the 2023 Monte-Carlo Masters en route to his inaugural triumph at ATP 1000 level.

SM words green background

We say: Rublev to win in three sets

Certainly one of the trickier matches to call at the 2024 Madrid Open, Fritz has often had Rublev's number in recent times, but the Russian was victorious in this matchup on clay last year and put in one of his finest performances of the season in Wednesday's beating of Alcaraz.

While Fritz's aggressive style and scintillating cross-court shots have troubled Rublev in the past and should continue to do so, the red-hot Russian just gets our vote to reach the final, assuming he does not let his emotions get the better of him.

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