Alejandro Davidovich Fokina made a successful return on Wednesday in his first match since reaching the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, clawing past fellow Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-3, 7-6(5) to reach the quarter-finals of the Millennium Estoril Open.
Davidovich Fokina made a dream run in Monte Carlo, where he stunned World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 final. Although he wasn’t quite as sharp in Portugal, his confidence showed in a one-hour, 57-minute victory.
“Bernabe is a tough player. He played flat balls and on clay it’s tough to play against him. In the second set he had chances to win the set and I was just there to focus on every point just to create some pressure [for] him,” Davidovich Fokina said. “I’m happy for the win.”
Zapata Miralles, who had already won three matches at the event, including two in qualifying, made his countryman work hard and held a 5/3 lead in the second-set tie-break. But Davidovich Fokina, whose trademark drop shot was not as precise as usual throughout the match, remained calm and was the more consistent player in the big moments.
The fourth seed earned seven service breaks and will next play fifth seed Frances Tiafoe. If Davidovich Fokina wins, he will move into his third semi-final in Estoril in his third appearance at the ATP 250.
Tiafoe battled past Portuguese wild card Nuno Borges 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-0. Borges, a former college tennis star at Mississippi State University, has earned both of his ATP Tour main draw wins in Estoril, one last year against Jordan Thompson and another on Monday against Pablo Andujar.
But Tiafoe claimed his second three-set win in three days after one hour and 57 minutes. The American was 0-for-5 on break points in the first two sets, but he converted three break points in the decider to advance to the Estoril quarter-finals for the third time. In 2018, Tiafoe advanced to the final on the Portuguese clay.
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In other action, defending champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas and former World No. 7 Fernando Verdasco set an all-Spanish quarter-final.
Ramos-Vinolas rallied past South Koren Soonwoo Kwon 5-7, 6-1, 5-2 after two hours and 11 minutes. The sixth seed has already lifted a trophy this year on clay in Cordoba.
Verdasco lost in the final round of qualifying against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, but replaced Diego Schwartzman in the draw as a lucky loser after the Argentine withdrew. The lefty took advantage of the opportunity when he defeated Uruguayan qualifier Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-3.
Ramos-Vinolas and Verdasco have split 10 previous ATP Head2Head meetings, with Ramos-Vinolas claiming their past three clashes without losing a set. He defeated Verdasco 6-3, 6-3 en route to the Estoril title last year.