Tennis: Moldova's Albot stuns top seed Mannarino in Singapore Open quarter-finals

Radu Albot hitting a backhand against Adrian Mannarino at the Singapore Tennis Open on Feb 26, 2021. PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE/GETTY IMAGES ASIAPAC

SINGAPORE - Radu Albot is no stranger to tough situations. In his first ATP singles final at the 2019 Delray Beach Open in Florida, he came from one set down against Briton Daniel Evans while saving three championship points to win his first ATP title and become the first Moldovan to lift an ATP title,

Earlier this year at the Australian Open, the world No. 76 again came from behind to beat 12th seed Roberto Bautista Agutin four sets in the first round. He eventually lost to Norwegian Casper Ruud in the third round.

Before his quarter-final match against top seed Adrian Mannarino in the Singapore Tennis Open on Friday (Feb 26), Albot was not feeling his best, having played a gruelling two-hour-42-minute match on Thursday, where he saved three match points against German Yannick Hanfmann.

But Albot, one of Moldova's most high-profile athletes, shook the weariness off and recorded another scalp, beating world No. 35 Mannarino 6-3, 6-4 at the OCBC Arena.

Albot, who is seeded sixth at the ATP 250 tournament, said: "Yesterday was a tough match that I almost lost. It was a tiring one and I didn't feel very fresh this morning.

"But I had a good warm-up and a good physio session then I think I switched on and didn't feel tired anymore."

Albot was two breaks up in the second set but had to hold off a spirited Mannarino, who saved five match points and reduced Albot's lead to just one game at 5-4.

Serving for the set for the second time, Albot made it count this time.

With his performance on the tour, he admitted that he is "well-known" in Moldova, which has an estimated population of 3.5 million according to the BBC and has few public courts and coaches, but does not feel additional pressure because of it.

Alexander Cozbinov is the next highest ranked Moldovan at world No. 723.

Albot, who is from the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, said: "I just do my thing. If I have a match tomorrow, I focus on this match. If I win, good. If I don't, I focus on the next one and keep practising and improving.

"It's not easy (to become a good athlete in my country). One important thing is you need to leave the country and practise elsewhere where tennis is more developed... with better coaches and better facilities."

For a spot in his second ATP singles final, he will have to first play Kazakh fourth seed Alexander Bublik who beat Japanese fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-2.

In another quarter-final clash, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic was made to work before claiming a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory over South Korean Kwon Soon-woo.

"I need several more matches to get onto a good level of my game and be consistent. Consistency wins matches and that's something that's missing at the moment," said Cilic.

"I'm in the semi-finals but there's still a long way to go and I have to keep my head down and work as much as I can and it would be best if I can come through tomorrow and hopefully in the final as well."

He next faces Australian world No. 114 Alexei Popyrin who reached his first top-level semi-final after beating compatriot Matthew Ebden 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) in a close affair.

Popyrin, 21, saved two set points during the second set tiebreak.

In the doubles event, German top-seeds Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen booked their spot in the final after beating English pair Luke Bambridge and Dominic Inglot 6-4, 6-4.

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