© Intrum Stockholm Open/Gustaf Adolfsson

Stefanos Tsitsipas defeats Fabio Fognini in straight sets at the Intrum Stockholm Open on Saturday.

Tsitsipas Closes On Maiden Crown In Stockholm

#NextGenATP Greek to meet Gulbis in championship match

Adding another chapter to a remarkable breakthrough season, Stefanos Tsitsipas reached his third final of 2018 on Saturday, beating Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-2 at the Intrum Stockholm Open.

The #NextGenATP Greek, twice a runner-up this season — in Barcelona and Toronto — defeated the second-seeded Italian after 76 minutes. The 20-year-old won 70 per cent of his service points and saved all four break points he faced to improve to 3-2 in tour-level semi-finals in 2018.

"[The key to the match] was to stay patient," said Tsitsipas. "[Fabio] was going for shots and the beginning of the match was really tough... I was patient in the rallies. That is how I got the win today."

Fognini was bidding to reach his fifth tour-level final of the season in his ninth semi-final (4-5). The 31-year-old, who has captured trophies in Sao Paulo, Bastad and Los Cabos this year, has fallen in the last four in Stockholm in each of the past two seasons. In last year's semi-finals, Fognini also fell in straight sets to Grigor Dimitrov.

"[Fabio] is a player that has been in the Top 20 for many years," said Tsitsipas. " He won many titles this year and has had a fantastic year. This victory has a lot of value to it."

The Rogers Cup finalist, currently ranked one position below his career-high No. 15 ATP Ranking, owns a 38-25 record this season. Before this year, Tsitsipas owned just four tour-level match wins. The 20-year-old will face Latvian Ernests Gulbis in Sunday's championship match.

Appearing in his first tour-level semi-final since Vienna in 2015 (l. to Johnson), Gulbis recovered from a set down to overcome top seed John Isner 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. The World No. 145, competing in his second Stockholm semi-final (also 2013), became the 11th qualifier this season to reach a tour-level championship match (8-2) after one hour and 48 minutes.

"I was fighting for every point," said Gulbis. "I think I returned a lot smarter in the second and third set."

Gulbis is aiming to end a four-year title drought after lifting his sixth tour-level title in 2014 in Nice (d. Delbonis). The 6'4" Latvian holds an undefeated 8-0 record in tour-level finals, with six victories in singles and two doubles triumphs.

"I like the way I am playing now, I like the way I am feeling, the way I am hitting and moving" said Gulbis. "If I play like this, I can beat anybody. I can give anybody trouble, for sure, so it is not going to be an easy match for [Stefanos] tomorrow. It is probably not going to be an easy match in general."

Playing his first tournament since becoming a father, Isner's run to the semi-finals in Stockholm boosts his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals at The 02 in London from 11-18 November. After starting the week in 10th place in the ATP Race To London, the American will rise one spot to ninth on Monday after earning 90 points in Stockholm. The Miami Open presented by Itaú champion, now 32-17 this season, will next travel to the Erste Bank Open, with 500 points on offer to the winner in the Austrian capital.

Did You Know?
In August, Tsitsipas became the youngest player to beat four Top 10 opponents at a single event since the ATP World Tour began in 1990.

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