Barcellona ATP: Lajovic batte un Filo instabile. In semifinale con Tsitsipas.

The race of Dusan Lajovic continues here in Barcelona as he reaches his first 500 semifinal. Regardless of the outcome, it will be the best tournament for the 33-year-old veteran, ranked 59th in the ATP, since reaching the final in Monte Carlo in 2019 and losing to Fognini. For Arthur Fils, the 19-year-old Frenchman ranked 36th in the ATP, it was a maturity test that the young man did not pass. If he had succeeded, he would have been the eighth teenager to reach the semifinals here in Barcelona. Looking at the statistics, the others who have succeeded have certainly made a name for themselves.

Moving on to the match, for simplicity, we will refer to Fils as FR (France) and Lajovic as SR (Serbia).

First set. Conditions are a bit milder compared to yesterday, as evidenced by the fact that Fils is not wearing a thermal shirt, unlike in the round of 16 match against De Minaur. However, the Frenchman does not start perfectly and suffers an early break. Fils, however, does not lose his composure and soon finds a break back in the sixth game. Fils struggles significantly on his second serve. When he fails to hit the first serve, he becomes a target for Lajovic’s aggressive returns, determined to take away his time. Allowing the Frenchman to play freely and unleash the power of his forehand would be quite suicidal. However, the Serbian is a skilled tactician and knows exactly how to play on a clay court. In the ninth game, he takes advantage of the opportunities to take control of the game and secures the decisive break. BREAK LAJOVIC. FR 4 – 5 SR.

Lajovic then holds his nerve and serves to win the set by finding the corners and cutting the court perfectly. FR 4 – 6 SR.

Second set. The second set starts with Fils serving and continuing to play powerful shots while holding his serve. As often happens with Fils, he plays with little margin, although spectacularly. We will see if the percentages are in his favor. In the next game with Lajovic serving, it seems that the percentages are on the Frenchman’s side, who aggressively reaches 0-40. Arthur plays focused and does not miss the opportunity, forcing Lajovic to make mistakes. Lajovic does not do anything particularly wrong in the game; in fact, he puts five first serves in the court but only wins one point. So, if the Frenchman could always play like he did in this second game, he shouldn’t have trouble entering the top ten. BREAK FILS. FR 2 – 0 SR.

In this second set, Arthur seems to be able to control his fiery spirit and channel his aggression. Another break point for Fils in the fourth game, but Lajovic remains calm and wins the game with a perfectly executed drop shot. However, there is little play in Fils’ service games in this second set. Powerful and precise solutions like this are propelling the Frenchman forward.

In Lajovic’s service games, the suffering continues: the Serbian gives away another break with a poor high forehand volley after setting up the point well. However, as mentioned, the Frenchman is still an apprentice sorcerer who does not always manage to contain his aggression. When serving for the match, he rushes and lets one of the two service breaks he had obtained slip away.

So, Fils leads 5-3, with the Frenchman serving again for the set. Lajovic is as usual smart in finding angles, but this time the first serve helps the Frenchman, who climbs from 15-30 to close out the second set. SET FILS. FR 6 – 3 SR.

The second set was played in bursts, where Lajovic primarily had the demerit of letting go and conceding the second break to Fils. Given the Frenchman’s consistent play at high frequencies, it is crucial to stay close and absorb the onslaughts, knowing that there will be some breaks.

Third set. Lajovic must pull out all the tricks of the trade to make the game and the Serbian undoubtedly knows them. If Dusan can vary appropriately and respond to Arthur’s powerful shots, then there will be an exciting match. Lajovic indeed tries to stay focused from the start and is rewarded with a break point in the first game of Fils’ service. The point plays out on Fils’ second serve, showcasing Arthur’s strengths and weaknesses. Lajovic moves towards the forehand side to respond aggressively, but Fils not only hits the midline but does so at a whopping speed of 194 km/h. The danger is averted by the Frenchman, who saves the game with two more powerful forehands on the line. FR 1 – 1 SR.

After the match between Tsitsipas and Acosta, it seems that we could have another close match. The games are all contested, and every point is a battle, although in this early part of the third set, Lajovic appears to be in better form, making Fils run and waiting for the error that, in most cases, arrives.

In the sixth game, a new crucial moment arrives. Lajovic manages to break Fils’ serve by responding effectively to the Frenchman’s serves and earns two break points. The first one is enough, played on Fils’ second serve, as he fails to defend on the backhand side and hits the net. BREAK LAJOVIC. FR 2 – 4 SR.

But just when it seems that the end is near, Fils regains composure to play some good shots and brings the Serbian to advantage in the next service game. Today, however, Arthur is less focused than yesterday and with two simple errors, he hands the game to his opponent, who is now just one game away from the semifinals. Fils is very inconsistent in recovery situations today, with errors that are proving to be his downfall. Fils even faces a barrage on his serve and goes down twice to match points but saves them with two winners each. However, a cruel bounce gives Lajovic a third opportunity, which he converts successfully as Fils’ shot goes wide, bringing the match to an end. MATCH LAJOVIC. FR 2 – 6 SR.

For Lajovic, it is his first ATP 500 semifinal and the second-best tournament of his career at the age of 33, after the 2019 run that saw him reach the final against Fognini in Monte Carlo.

After the match, some initial impressions were shared by the Serbian.

“What did you do differently this week compared to the past?”

“In Monte Carlo, I arrived in poor condition, I was sick, and I couldn’t train. I was bedridden for 5 days, so I came here with little training in my legs. Otherwise, I have no secrets. I have been playing quite well on clay courts lately, and this is a continuation of the good things I have done on red clay. Since the first match played here in Barcelona, I had good feelings and gained confidence. Today’s match was very difficult, Fils was hitting really hard, and the conditions were not the best, it was cold.”

“For tomorrow’s match against Tsitsipas, against whom you have only one previous meeting on clay (Hamburg 2020, a victory for the Greek), what kind of match will it be?”

“In general, my playing patterns on clay are consolidated, and I believe they work quite well. Stefanos is a top player, and against this type of players, patience is needed because it always takes an extra shot to win the point. Some points need to be won more than once.”