(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) The Malek Jaziri wave continues to stir the soul. After having won his first match against a top 10 player on Tuesday night, the 34-year-old player made more history on an unforgettable Thursday evening at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships by reaching the first ATP 500 semifinal of his career.
Few could have predicted that when Malek faced top seed and world number four Grigor Dimitrov, the man known as the Baby Fed for his Federer-esque game, in the Dubai first round. But inspired by the singing and flag-waving fans, the Tunisian wildcard stunned the most successful men's player in Bulgarian history and then put Dutchman Robin Haase, whose defeat to Roger Federer at the Rotterdam quarterfinal made the Swiss maestro the oldest world number one in history, to the sword in the next round on Wednesday.
But to become the first Arab player after the Moroccan legend Younes El Aynaoui to reach the Dubai semifinals, Jaziri still needed the legs to beat a 19-year-old Greek sensation called Stefanos Tsitsipas, the former junior world number one. In the end, it was the old man that had the last laugh, winning the battle of the wild cards in three sets 6-4 3-6 6-3 to set up a semifinal clash with Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
Second seeded Frenchman Lucas Pouille needed three sets to beat Yuichi Sugita of Japan to enter the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday.
Pouille came back after losing the first to beat Japanese eighth seed Sugita 3-6 6-3 6-2 in the third singles quarterfinal of the day.
"It was a big fight today. It was not easy at all," Jaziri, the world number 117, said after the two-hour-three minute quarterfinal clash.
"I finished very late after the Haase match last night. I think I was in bed at 2:30am, so I didn't sleep a lot. I tried to recover as I had to get ready for today. It was not easy. I had less than 17 hours or 16 hours to prepare for the match today. "So it was tough for me. During the match I was up and down little bit. But I'm so happy now that I have win this match," he added.
Jaziri even asked for a painkiller during the dramatic match in which he won 77 total points compared to Tsitsipas's 78. "I had little bit of pain, little bit in the hip from yesterday after the match against Haase. So I asked for a painkiller," he said.
Now the Tunisian says he will do everything to be ready for the semifinals as he wants to become the first Arab player since El Aynaoui to reach the Dubai final.
"I will try to recover. You know, when you're happy, you don't feel tired. You don't feel that in the moment. You are emotional, so you don't feel that. You feel a little bit tired, but hopefully I will keep going like that," he said.
Jaziri's run has been the most inspiring story of the tournament this year and his tennis on Thursday inspired his fans to sing and start Mexican waves, giving him the energy to completely demoralize his young rival from Greece.
"Hopefully the nice story will continue. It's always nice story start from nothing," he said.
"You know, it's really important, I think, for me and all Arab players. They can believe they can succeed in tennis. It's true maybe you don't have a culture like other countries in tennis, but it is growing now.
"Hopefully I will give positive energy. It will hopefully inspire the next generation. "I enjoy these moments on court and the support from the fans. It was really important for me to fight for every point as all these people were watching my match and cheering for me at every point.
"I feel that moment. When I play, I feel them. They feel me, I feel them. We have that contact.
"Even today, they helped me a lot when I was little bit down in the third set. I felt that they were with me. They pushed me. This gave me more power today."
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