Tsitsipas Brushes Past Demon, Now For Felix In Barcelona
The second-seeded Greek, who captured his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Rublev) on Sunday, was impressive in a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 14 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia in 84 minutes. He is now 24-5 on the 2021 season.
"I was playing close to the lines so that was definitely difficult," Tsitsipas said. "He’s a good competitor; he always puts out his best game. I think running and getting an extra ball back is actually his biggest strength so that’s what makes him very difficult to play against."
Tsitsipas will next look to extend his 3-2 ATP Head2Head record over Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 11 seed from Canada, on Friday. Tsitsipas beat the #NextGenATP star 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 last month in the Abierto Mexciano Telcel presentado por HSBC quarter-finals.
The first set was clean from both sides with no break points faced until De Minaur was serving at 5-6. The 22-year-old went for too much at a critical moment — still just his seventh unforced error of the set — to give Tsitsipas double set point. After De Minaur saved the first set point with a drop shot winner — one of many from the Aussie —Tsitsipas controlled the narrative with his forehand on the next point to seal the set.
De Minaur replied instantly with a break of his own in the first game of the second set. He needed to pull Tsitsipas off the court and out of his strike zone, and was most effective in using drop shots to bait the World No. 5 away from the baseline.
The World No. 25 was rewarded for his bold play with an early break in the second set, but couldn’t maintain the extreme level of precision with Tsitsipas breaking back and regaining control of the match. After another break at 4-3, Tsitsipas raced to the finish line.
Earlier in the day, Auger-Aliassime got the better of fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3 in 89 minutes. “I was happy with my level today,” said Auger-Aliassime. “It’s never easy to play against him and it’s great to have won in straight sets. The next match won’t be easy, a tough challenge.”
Tenth seed Auger-Aliassime, who also beat Shapovalov in this year’s Australian Open third round, won the first three games in each set. Seventh seed Shapovalov required treatment for an upper back and left shoulder complaint at the end of the first set, which ended with his fourth double fault. Auger-Aliassime closed out the pair’s fifth ATP Head2Head meeting on his fifth match point, having won 35 of 48 service points.
"I’ve never played him on clay," Tsitsipas said of Auger-Aliassime. "He’s someone that has done very well in recent years and [he's] playing at the top of his form right now. I’m looking forward to the next battle, to the next difficulty that’s set, and can’t wait to compete against Felix."