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Duckworth beats Millman for Astana Open semifinal spot

2021 US Open - Day 1

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 30: James Duckworth of Australia returns against Pedro Martinez of Spain during their men’s singles first round match on Day One of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan -- Defending champion John Millman was upset by fellow Australian James Duckworth in the quarterfinals of the Astana Open, as Alexander Bublik also reached the semifinals.

Duckworth beat fifth-seeded Millman 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of a tour event for the second time in his career and first since the Maharashtra Open in February 2020.

In a match between friends who train at the same site, Duckworth broke Millman in the opening game of each set. Millman saved match point at 5-3 down in the second but Duckworth closed it out in the next game.

“It is always difficult playing someone so close to you, but you have to put that aside and focus pretty hard and I was able to play a pretty good match,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth’s semifinal opponent is eighth-seeded Ilya Ivashka, who came back from a set down to beat Emil Ruusuvuori 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, helped by five double faults from Ruusuvuori in the deciding set.

“The whole match was a mental fight and I am really happy I have come through it,” Ivashka said.

Bublik is the highest-ranked player in the last four at 34th in the world and will play Kwon Soon-woo in the semifinals after beating Carlos Taberner 6-3, 6-4 in their quarterfinal.

South Korea’s Kwon beat seventh-seeded Laslo Djere 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-0 for back-to-back upset wins after he eliminated third-seeded Dusan Lajovic on Thursday.

Of the semifinalists, only Ivashka has won a tour title, at the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina last month. Bublik is 0-4 in career singles finals but the biggest match of his career was in doubles, when he and Andrey Golubev were runners-up at the French Open in June. Duckworth and Kwon have never gone beyond the semifinals on tour.