© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Wild card Jannik Sinner records just the second Top 10 win of his career on Wednesday against Stefanos Tsitsipas in Rome.

Sinner Survives Tsitsipas Comeback, Records Second Top 10 Win

Italian wild card now faces Dimitrov or Nishioka

Jannik Sinner barely put a foot wrong for more than an hour on Wednesday afternoon in a battle between two Next Gen ATP Finals champions. But a relatively subdued Stefanos Tsitsipas found his clay feet to ensure a resurgence at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Sinner led 6-1, 5-2 and looked set for the second Top 10 win of his career, but Tsitsipas had other ideas. The third-seeded Greek won four straight games to serve for the second set at 6-5, but needed to save match points in the tie-break at 6/7 and 8/9. However, in the decider, it was all Sinner.

The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion regained his focus to beat 2019 Nitto ATP Finals titlist Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-7(9), 6-2 in two hours and 13 minutes for a place in the third round against No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov, who lost just one of his first-service points (24/25) in a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Yoshihito Nishioka.

“He is obviously a very experienced player,” said Sinner, in an on-court interview at the Foro Italico. “I played against him last year here in Rome. I just wanted to play my game and move better. In the beginning, I was feeling great and I knew it was his first match on clay. When I served for the match [at 5-3 in the second set], I hit one double fault and the tie-break could have gone either way. I tried to start strongly in the third set.”

Watch Replays

Wild card Sinner never let Tsitsipas settle on Pietrangeli, the second show court, for the first 40 minutes. The 19-year-old broke Tsitsipas three times in the 30-minute opener and won seven straight games from 2-1 in the first set to 3-0 in the second set.

Sinner, who lost two points in his first three service games (12/14), saved a break point at the start of the second set. Tsitsipas, the 2019 semi-finalist, left his comeback late, breaking Sinner at 3-5 and at 5-5. While Tsitsipas hit a double fault at Ad-Out when serving for the second set, there was no let up on drama.

Tsitsipas first led 4/1 in the tie-break, forcing Sinner to come back. The Greek held set points at 6/5 and 8/7, while Sinner over-hit groundstrokes on match points at 7/6 and 9/8. Tsitsipas clinched the 72-minute set, 11/9, when Sinner hit a forehand into the net. But Tsitsipas then lost the first four games of the decider.

World No. 81 Sinner is now 6-7 in a season hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Tsitsipas, who is currently No. 6 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and next in line to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in November, had beaten Sinner 6-3, 6-2 in the Rome second round last year. The Open 13 Provence titlist is now 18-8 on the season.

"When you're young, in one year you can do a lot of things," said Sinner. "I think I have improved everything. Especially the serve. I served a little bit better [today], changing rotation and everything... Playing against him is never easy. Last year was my first test against a Top 10 player. It was a little test... Today, I knew that I had the level to compete better against him. Obviously, it was a great match, and I'm very happy."

Tennis Radio