Stefanos Shining: #NextGenATP Tsitsipas Makes History
#NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas made history on Saturday at the Rogers Cup, becoming the youngest player to beat four Top 10 opponents at a single tournament since the ATP World Tour was established in 1990.
The 19-year-old moved into his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, saving one match point to defeat fourth seed Kevin Anderson 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(7) in the semi-finals. Tsitsipas will attempt to lift his maiden tour-level trophy against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
"Playing in a Masters 1000 final is the best thing that can happen on your birthday," said Tsitsipas, who turns 20 on Sunday. "I cannot believe it."
It's a tremendous accomplishment considering that this time last year, Tsitsipas was still two months from earning his first tour-level match win. Now, he is the first player since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto four years ago to beat four members of the Top 10, clearly proving he is one of the hottest players on the ATP World Tour.
Tsitsipas also defeated World No. 8 Dominic Thiem in the second round, 69-time tour-level champion Novak Djokovic in the third round and defending titlist Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals, before ousting the World No. 6 Anderson. Prior to this week at the Aviva Centre, the Greek had just three wins against the elite group.
The Athens native is the first unseeded Rogers Cup finalist since Nicolas Kiefer finished runner-up in Toronto in 2008 (l. to Nadal). Tsitsipas, who was No. 168 in the ATP Rankings this week a year ago, will climb to at least No. 15 on Monday. If he wins the tournament, he will soar to No. 12.
"I couldn't achieve anything better in one tournament, beating all those high-ranked players, playing amazing tennis," Tsitsipas said. "I'm pretty sure the crowd didn't expect that. I personally didn't expect that. So it's going pretty well so far and I'm pretty psyched for the final tomorrow."
In his second win against Anderson, the teenager won all 17 of his service games, and he has not yet been broken by the South African in the six sets they have played. Tsitsipas, who leads their FedEX ATP Head2Head series 2-0, also beat the South African in May on clay in Estoril.
The players were knotted at 4/4 in the deciding tie-break when Tsitsipas played sensational defence on his forehand side, making Anderson play an extra ball, which he missed with his own forehand. The teenager earned his first match point with a forehand winner, but double-faulted long. And on his second opportunity, he couldn't quite stave off his opponent's offence, missing a looping forehand long.
But Tsitsipas stayed focused, saving a match point with a stunning crosscourt one-handed backhand winner, before eventually closing out the semi-final on his third chance when the South African missed just long.
"It's obviously incredibly difficult losing a match like that where it's so close at such a big stage of the tournament," Anderson said. "I did what I could. I thought he played some really good tennis, especially when it mattered the most. I had a couple of break points end of the second set and then in the third set too. He didn't miss a first serve. He played really well then.
"On the one match point that I had, he came up with an unbelievable backhand crosscourt winner. So it was a very impressive effort from him."
The right-hander did a good job of adjusting his game throughout the match. Anderson dictated many of the rallies early, striking balls inside the baseline and keeping his opponent back with big kick serves. But Tsitsipas was unafraid of taking risks, consistently moving to the net in the second and third sets, finishing many points with backhand volleys.
If Tsitsipas does face Nadal on Sunday, it’ll be the second time in their two meetings that they have played for a championship. The Spaniard prevented the Greek from lifting his maiden trophy at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell this April, prevailing in 77 minutes to capture his 11th title at the event.
The second-placed player in the ATP Race To Milan, Tsitsipas is the third #NextGenATP competitor to reach multiple tour-level finals this year, joining Alex de Minaur (Sydney, Washington) and Frances Tiafoe (Delray Beach, Estoril).
Did You Know?
Tsitsipas will attempt to become the first player since Albert Portas at Hamburg in 2001 to win his first ATP World Tour title at a Masters 1000 event.