World number one Carlos Alcaraz shook off a slow start and held on late to beat qualifier Max Purcell 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and reach the semi-finals of the ATP/WTA Cincinnati Open on Friday.
The Spanish top seed was caught out by the 70th-ranked Australian, dropping the first set in 44 minutes.
Alcaraz steadied the ship to force a third, struggling through an exchange of service breaks before breaking for a 5-4 lead and serving out the victory.
Alcaraz, the Wimbledon champion chasing a seventh title of the season, polished off the win in two and a quarter hours with an ace among his 29 winners.
Purcell, meanwhile, was hindered by 49 unforced errors in the tight contest.
“It was really tough and tricky today, he serves really well,” Alcaraz said. “He played well at the net. I returned well, that was the key to the win.
“I’m happy to have my seventh Masters semi-final here in Cincy.”
Alcaraz booked a semi-final clash with Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who needed seven match points to finally put away Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-1, 7-6 (10/8).
Cincinnati marked the first time since Cincy 2002 (Lleyton Hewitt, Wayne Arthurs) that two Aussies competed in a Masters quarter-finals.
Alcaraz had a close call with Hurkacz last week in Toronto, winning the third set in a tiebreaker.
“The court is faster here than in Toronto and that will be good for his game.” Alcaraz predicted. “I have to focus on return and try to play well in the rallies.
“I’ll do my best – I’ll go for it.”
Hurkacz had 19 winners and the same number of unforced errors in beating Popyrin, the first lucky loser to reach the quarters in Cincinnati since Jeremy Chardy in 2012.
“I’m happy to finish in straight sets,” Hurkacz said. “I had to stay aggressive and keep my foot on the gas. I’m really happy with how I played.”
Swiatek Tops Vondrousova
Swiatek, the reigning US Open and French Open champion, said she applied the lessons from her first-set struggles in the second to sweep past Wimbledon winner Vondrousova.
She had lost serve twice in the opening set as she struggled with Vondrousova’s lefty game, but broke as the Czech served for the set and eventually won the tiebreaker.
Swiatek dominated the second set to claim the victory in 93 minutes.
“It’s not easy to adjust to her spin,” Swiatek said. “After the first set, I was determined to fight for every ball.
“I was more focused and I knew what worked,” she added. “I learned from the first set. I knew exactly how I should play. That’s why it was such a good performance.”
The Polish star will play for a place in the final against seventh-seeded American Coco Gauff — who tossed a racquet in anger on the way to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Italian qualifier Jasmine Paolini.
“I showed a little anger, but it was needed,” Gauff said. “Usually they say don’t throw your racquet but I won six games in a row. What can you do? At least no one got hurt.”
Czech Karolina Muchova advanced to the final four without problem as compatriot Marie Bouzkova retired injured after losing all three games they played.