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Ian Chadband

O'Connell homes in on career high after Marrakech win

Chris O'Connell has reached his second ATP quarter-final of 2023 with a comeback win in Marrakech. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Rising Australian Chris O'Connell is homing in on a career-best ranking after reaching his second ATP quarter-final of the year with a stirring comeback triumph in Morocco.

The Sydneysider, who was No.153 in the world this time last year, is now poised to threaten his career-best ranking of 78 after defeating Dutch No.1 Botic van de Zandschulp 6-7 (8-10) 6-4 6-0 in the Grand Prix Hassan II clay court event in Marrakech on Thursday.

It was a particularly notable win after the manner in which O'Connell dropped the opening set.

The 28-year-old had raced into a 5-0 lead only to get a sinking feeling as the Dutchman won five straight games to tie it up.

Regrouping, O'Connell then took the set to a tiebreak and eked out a set point before van de Zandschulp hit back to seal the stanza on a remarkable marathon point that he won with a passing forehand.

If O'Connell felt dispirited, there was no sign of it as he dominated the rest of the contest to earn the scalp of the world No.31 after two and three-quarter hours.

It represented another decent victim in a season for O'Connell that's already featured him beating Roberto Bautista-Agut before giving the season's stand-out player Daniil Medvedev a scare in Qatar.

O'Connell will next meet Russia's Pavel Kotov, the world No.114, in his second last-eight appearance of the year, with a first ATP semi-final since San Diego last year beckoning.

Victory over the man from Moscow would then transport the Aussie to a new career-best ranking in the region of No.70, with the promise of going higher during the clay court season.

O'Connell, though, is the last Aussie standing in the singles after his fellow Sydneysider Alexei Popyrin was trounced 6-1 6-3 by British No.2 Dan Evans, the tournament's second seed.

It was plain sailing for Evans after he broke Popyrin's delivery in the opening game of the match.

With two more breaks, Evans raced to the first set against the world No.95 in just 27 minutes and though Popyrin showed more resolve in the second stanza, he suffered another break to go 4-2 behind and there was no way back.

Evans will face Andrea Vavassori for a place in the semi-finals after the Italian came from behind to beat Spain's Jaume Munar 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 in three-and-a-quarter hours.

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