Resilience the name of the game for Duckworth and Kwon

24.09.2021    Views: 176
Source: KTF press-service
Alex Sharp

Resilience is the buzz word for James Duckworth. The Australian halted his compatriot John Millman’s Astana Open title defence with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph, edging closer to a maiden ATP final. The world No.65 has earned a semi-final against in-form Winston-Salem champion Illya Ivashka.  
«It was really tricky. John is obviously a great player but we’re really close mates too. We practice at the same site, have known each other for a long time. He’s one of my best mates on tour,» reflected the 29-year-old.  «So it’s always difficult facing someone so close to you. I was able to put that aside, did a good job of sticking to my processes. 
«I knew he was going to fight until the very end, as he does in every match. I knew I had to stay focused until the very end.» 
Once again Duckworth excelled on serve, firing down nine aces and claiming 78 per cent of points behind first deliveries. An instant break in each set provided the platform for Duckworth. However, excellent counterpunching from Millman hauled the world No.48 from 1-4 to 3-4 in the second set, but Duckworth held his nerve to prevail in a series of captivating cat and mouse rallies to advance in straight sets. Serving for the match at 5-4, Duckworth dipped and connected with a stunning stop volley winner, which prompted Millman to call out «too good.» 
It’s been too good from the world No.65 all week, who arrived in Nur-Sultan off the back of collecting a 12th ATP Challenger title in Istanbul on Sunday. 
«It’s tough. Playing a bunch of matches in a row is relatively draining. I physically felt the effect of Istanbul in my first match here, I got pretty agitated,» added Duckworth after his eighth successive victory. «I was able to recompose myself in the last couple of matches and mentally I’ve been very strong.» 
The 29-year-old has undergone eight surgeries during an injury-blighted career and is being richly rewarded for his resilience in 2021. 
«I’ve always been that way. If I’ve wanted to achieve something I know I’ve had to work really hard. That’s the only way you get anywhere in life,» insisted the Australian. «Consistently putting in the hours builds that resilience but also an appreciation for when you then have the good times.» 
Duckworth will shoot for a first ATP final up against No.8 seed Ivashka. The duo split a tight three-set win each in qualifying earlier this summer on grass in Stuttgart and Halle.  
«At the time I was thinking ‘This is a pretty high level for qualies.’ We’ve been playing very well since and moved up the rankings,» said the Australian. 
«I’ve been watching him playing great to win Winston-Salem. Saw some of his high quality match with Ruusuvuori earlier. He’s really solid, hitting the ball big and hard off both sides. I’m going to have to play really well.» 
Alexander Bublik edged closer to silverware on home soil with an emphatic 6-3, 6-4 passage past Spain’s Carlos Taberner. The No.2 seed dictated with his piercing serve and heavy one-two striking to book a semi-final facing South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon. 
«A couple of matches have really helped. He’s a clay courter playing on indoor hard courts, I served well, so it was a little easier today,» stated the Kazakh favourite. 
«I kept my nerve, played well and I’m happy with the win.» 
Bublik and Kwon have dueled before, in a Challenger in this very country back in 2017. The 24-year-old won in Astana in straight sets that day but is forward thinking this week.  
«I’m not looking at who I’m playing, I’m focusing on myself,» added Bublik. «Whatever my team tell me I’m going to try and do, be myself and try and win the match.» 
Earlier on Friday Kwon chalked up his second ATP semi-final of the season with a hard-fought 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-0 victory over No.7 seed Laslo Djere. 
«I’m so happy because it was a really tough match,» said the world No.82, dissolving a break lead twice in the opening set.  
«I was very disappointed to lose the second set but I tried to be positive and gave everything in every point.» 
The 23-year-old has seamlessly transferred from leading his country to Davis Cup glory on grass courts last week to battling on the indoor hard courts in Nur-Sultan. 
«Yeah it’s not been easy, but I’m playing without pressure and just playing my game. The quality is high here so I’m really happy.»

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