Fritz beats Tommy Paul to enter St. Petersburg quarters

Taylor Fritz celebrated his 24th birthday by beating doubles partner Tommy Paul 7-6 (3), 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals of the St. Petersburg Open on Thursday.

It was a bittersweet victory because the Americans are good friends.

โ€œIt makes it even tougher – not just another American, one of my closest friends,” the fifth-seeded Fritz said in his on-court interview. “It’s never easy playing against a really close friend.โ€

The California native jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set and capitalized on Paulโ€™s early double-fault in the tiebreaker. Paul converted just one of his four break points.

Fritz will next face Australian John Millman, who advanced by upsetting fourth-seeded Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-2. Karatsev won the Kremlin Cup on Sunday but the Russian lost his cool at 2-2 in the second set.

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He handed the 57th-ranked Millman a break when he was penalized a point for slamming his racket on the court after sailing a backhand wide at deuce.

The loss was also a big setback in Karatsevโ€™s bid to qualify for the ATP Finals. The veteran Millman is 0-5 in quarterfinal matches this year.

In another upset, Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp set up a quarterfinal against home favorite and defending champion Andrey Rublev after beating eighth-seeded Sebastian Korda of the United States 6-2, 7-5.

Van de Zandschulp beat Rublev during the qualifying rounds in Rotterdam in February 2017, when the now sixth-ranked Rublev was still outside the top 100.

โ€œThese days itโ€™s a little bit different. The tables are a little bit turned,” the 69th-ranked Van de Zandschulp said Thursday in his post-match press conference. โ€œIโ€™m eager to play tomorrow, and we will see.โ€

Van de Zandschulp, a U.S. Open quarterfinalist, broke the 38th-ranked Korda immediately and said he โ€œdidn’t give him free points,” limiting the American to two break chances.

Croatiaโ€™s Marin Cilic and Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut will also meet in the quarterfinals Friday. Cilic beat sixth-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-4 while the third-seeded Bautista Agut ousted American Mackenzie McDonald, 6-3, 6-2.

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