World No. 5 Dominic Thiem eased through to the quarterfinals of the Qatar Open on Wednesday to become the only seeded player left in the tournament after the first two rounds saw the seven other highest-ranked players eliminated. Four seeds crashed out in the first round and a further three lost in the second, ensuring that the Doha tournament will have its first non-seeded finalist since Gael Monfils in 2014.
French veteran Richard Gasquet and Spain's Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez - seeded five, seven and eight - lost on Wednesday as the surprises continued in Doha.
They joined second seed Pablo Carreno Busta, as well as Tomas Berdych, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Filip Krajinovic - numbers three, four and six respectively - who all fell at the first hurdle.
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The carnage among the seeds comes after the tournament was shorn of three major stars before it even began, with Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulling out as they try to recover from injuries.
Thiem, the No. 1 seed, won his second round match against Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene 7-5, 6-4, but said the contest was tougher than the scoreline suggested. "I'm pleased today, I'm through in straight sets," he told reporters afterwards. "It was a tough match, but I expected it and had two tough matches which I both won in straight sets."
The Austrian was set to meet Gasquet in the last eight but the Frenchman was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Greek qualifier and teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 19-year-old is a former junior No. 1.
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Another notable winner was Russia's Andrey Rublev, 20, who beat Verdasco in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a centre court match watched by Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi. The high-profile pair are former tennis partners and Khelaifi is also president of the Qatar Tennis Federation.
‘Happy to take my revenge’
Rublev, the World No. 39, broke Verdasco in the ninth game of the final set, then saved two break points as he served out for victory. "Of course I'm really happy," said Rublev. "I'm happy to take my revenge because I lost against Fernando a few months ago."
World No. 138 and wildcard Mirza Basic provided another shock by beating Lopez with a straight sets victory 6-4, 7-6 (7/2). Lopez is ranked 102 places higher than the Bosnian in the world standings.
With almost every seed gone, it may provide an opportunity for one of the game's young stars to emerge, such as Rublev or the man he will play in the quarterfinals, Borna Coric, the World No. 48. Croatian Coric, 21, followed up his first round victory over Carreno Busta with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Monfils could emulate his own achievement from 2014. He beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to reach the last eight and said there was more to come. "I can, I think, play better," he said. "I think it's just matter of time and confidence."