Match Report

Hunted By 'Cheetah-Like' Baez, Tsitsipas Lives Another Day

Greek meets Zapata Miralles on Tuesday for Madrid quarter-final place
May 01, 2023
Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Stefanos Tsitsipas advances to the last 16 in Madrid. By ATP Staff

After edging Dominic Thiem in a third-set tie-break to open his Mutua Madrid Open campaign, Stefanos Tsitsipas again owned the clutch moments in a Monday win against Sebastian Baez. In a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 victory, the Greek rattled off the final four games of the opening set and the last three of the third to advance to the last 16 at the ATP Masters 1000.

"He made it very difficult for me. Honestly, it was demanding in a lot of ways. I had to bring the best out of my game," Tsitsipas said post-match. "He wasn't missing much. Of course he's someone that covers and runs around the court pretty well. He definitely utilised that pretty well against me, being able to navigate himself throughout the entire court with ease, just gliding through the court like a cheetah."

Emerging victorious from the Madrid jungle, Tsitsipas improved to 8-2 on clay this season as he continues his bid to return to the semi-finals at the event for the third time. A 2019 finalist in the Spanish capital, he also reached the last four in 2022. If he can win his third ATP Masters 1000 title this week, he could rise as high No. 3 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and move within 1,000 points of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

A trophy would be his first of the season following defeats in the final at the Australian Open and last week in Barcelona.

Baez provided a stern test on Manolo Santana Stadium, combining consistency with a relentless baseline attack and taking advantage of 45 unforced errors from the Greek. Tsitsipas buckled down to steal the opening set from 3-5, finding space to dictate off his forehand wing, only to see Baez snap back to claim the second set after building a 3-0 lead.

There were no break points on offer in the final set until the final two games. Tsitsipas stepped into the court with great success to break for 5-3, then saved two break points to serve out the match, including one with an ace. He finished with a serve-and-volley on match point to claim victory after two hours, 12 minutes.

"I'm glad I served well in some moments, in that last game," the Greek reflected. "He wasn't going to give up. He really fought for every single point and I'm glad obviously that I overcame this because it was more — not so much of a physical [battle] — it was more of a mental battle I underwent and I had to persevere there and show myself that I'm much stronger in terms of handling those situations and fighting back."

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Tsitsipas will next face home favourite Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who continued his dream run at the Caja Magica with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory against qualifier Roman Safiullin. The World No. 42 powered 33 winners en route to a two-hour, 22-minute win to advance to the fourth round of a Masters 1000 event for the first time.

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