Tsitsipas Rolls Past Dimitrov, Sets Rublev QF Clash
Stefanos Tsitsipas kept his bid for back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 titles on track on Thursday at the Mutua Madrid Open, producing a high-class performance to brush past Grigor Dimitrov, 6-3, 6-4, and book a quarter-final clash with Andrey Rublev.
Tsitsipas successfully defended his crown at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in April and took to the court against Dimitrov with the confidence of a man enjoying his time on the European clay. A 2019 finalist in Madrid, the World No. 5 will hope the consistency and accuracy he displayed from the baseline against the Bulgarian continues as he chases a second title of 2022.
“[I played] good tennis and had a very good, competitive attitude," said Tsitsipas after the match. "I was able to really stay in the zone from the beginning until the end. I felt very comfortable with what I was doing, very secure with what I was trying to do out on the court. I’m happy it paid off, without many bumps [along the way].”
Tsitsipas last faced Dimitrov just two weeks ago at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. As on that occasion, Tsitsipas proved too strong for the Bulgarian in the pair's third-round clash in Madrid, with the Greek’s serve a particularly potent weapon in Arantxa Sanchez Stadium. Dimitrov won just eight points against the Tsitsipas delivery in the match, according to Infosys ATP Stats, as the Greek powered to a 79-minute victory.
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The early pressure was all on the Dimitrov delivery as Tsitsipas' relentlessly high-powered serving offered the Bulgarian little respite in his return games. The Greek made a move of his own in the sixth game as he broke to love, with Dimitrov unable to replicate the level that had taken him past Diego Schwartzman for the loss of just three games in the second round.
The Tsitsipas charge continued into the second set, despite Dimitrov producing a series of cleanly-struck backhand winners to the delight of an energetic crowd. A solitary break in the third game of the set was enough for Tsitsipas to complete the win and extend his ATP Head2Head series lead over Dimitrov to 4-1.
Despite his good form, Tsitsipas is wary of the threat posed by Rublev in the next round. “I will have to do my job," said the Greek. "He’s someone that hits the ball hard. Obviously I will have to focus on my defensive game a little bit more. But with the right attitude and the right competitiveness, it’s something that I can really try and get the most out of.”
Rublev’s strong run of form on the European clay was earlier given another stern test in Madrid, but the sixth seed demonstrated his resilience under pressure to defeat Daniel Evans and reach the quarter-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time.
Rublev extended his winning streak to six matches with a 7-6(7), 7-5 win over World No. 36 Evans, once again demonstrating his on-court problem-solving abilities as he recovered a slow start to secure a two-hour, 29-minute win. His two victories so far this week mean he has risen two places to No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
“I didn’t start well, and I got super frustrated," said Rublev after the match. "I was 40/0 up and I had quite an easy forehand and I didn’t make it. I said to myself, if I’m not going to change, I’m not going to win. I will lose.
"So I started to be more calm, started to play better, and at the end I was able to turn it around and win a set. The second set was better, and in the last games I think I showed a good level.”
Just as in his second-round match with #NextGenATP contender Jack Draper, Rublev found himself trailing early against a British opponent before the power of his groundstrokes took him to victory. Rublev has shown glimpses this week in Madrid of the ball-striking that took him past World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to an 11th tour-level title in Belgrade eleven days ago. The sixth seed will now seek greater consistency at the Caja Magica as he hunts a maiden Masters 1000 title.
A bright Evans start took the Brit to a 3-1 lead early in Manolo Santana Stadium as a frustrated Rublev struggled to settle. Once the World No. 8 found his groove, however, he began to dominate rallies with his trademark forceful groundstrokes from deep. Evans stuck with him to force a tie-break and carved out a set point at 7/6, but Rublev held his nerve to secure the opening set with a third set point of his own.
Evans is not renowned for his clay-court pedigree, but his semi-final run at the 2021 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters showed that the Brit is still more than capable on the red dirt. After falling behind 3-1 in the second set he pegged back the free-flowing Rublev, crafting a series of elegant backhand passing shots to recover to 5-5.
The constant threat of the Rublev return took its toll at the most crucial of moments, however. The sixth seed broke again at 6-5 before serving out to complete his 25th match win of the season and take a 3-2 lead in his ATP Head2Head series with Evans.
The win takes Rublev to a seventh Masters 1000 quarter-final. He and Tsitsipas are currently level at 4-4 in their ATP Head2Head series, with Rublev triumphing in the pair’s last meeting at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals.