Tsitsipas Books Kukushkin Final Clash In Marseille
#NextGenATP Greek improves to 3-2 against Goffin
The #NextGenATP Greek, who defeated two-time defending champion Roger Federer en route to the Australian Open semi-finals last month, dropped only two points behind his first serve (28/30) and won eight of the last 10 games to triumph after 69 minutes. Tsitsipas improves to 3-2 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Goffin, adding to victories at the 2017 European Open and last year's Citi Open.
"I found rhythm in the worst possible moment," said Tsitsipas. "I found my rhythm and I found my game when he served at 6-5. I felt comfortable on the returns and the momentum was on my side."
Tsitsipas entered this week with a 0-2 record in Marseille, searching for form after early losses in Sofia (l. to Monfils) and Rotterdam (l. to Dzumhur). But the 20-year-old is now one win away from adding to his trophy cabinet. Tsitsipas ended last season by lifting his maiden ATP Tour title in Stockholm, before winning each of his five matches en route to the Next Gen ATP Finals crown in Milan.
"It is important to win titles. Titles mean a lot," said Tsitsipas. "[Titles] won't come to you. You have to work hard to get them... There is no better feeling than winning a title. It feels amazing."
After 10 consecutive service holds to reach 5-5, Goffin took away time from Tsitsipas to claim the first break of the match. But the Belgian could not serve out the set, with Tsitsipas taking the ball early on his backhand side to force a tie-break. The #NextGenATP Greek rode the momentum, maintaining his offensive court position to earn five set points at 6/1. Tsitsipas took his first opportunity, locking Goffin up on his return with a well-placed body serve.
Tsitsipas increased his advantage in the opening stages of the second set, dictating on his forehand side with great depth and moving up the court to earn consecutive breaks for a 3-0 lead. The Next Gen ATP Finals champion soon earned three match points at 5-2, converting his first chance after extracting a backhand error from Goffin with a forehand approach.
Tsitsipas will meet Mikhail Kukushkin for the second time in Sunday's championship match. The World No. 12 leads Kukushkin 1-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series after beating the Kazakh in three sets at last year's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
"[Mikhail] is also in good form, he has been playing good tennis," said Tsitsipas. "He seems like he is doing well, so I am going to have to deal with it. It is not going to be easy, I can promise that."
Kukushkin reached his first tour-level championship match in more than four years after ending the run of French wildcard Ugo Humbert 6-4, 6-4. The 31-year-old Kazakh, who reached his third ATP Tour final at the 2015 Sydney International (l. to Troicki), advanced to the championship match after one hour and 33 minutes, winning 83 per cent of service points (38/46) en route to victory. Kukushkin will be aiming to capture his second tour-level crown in Sunday's final, more than eight years after claiming his maiden title at the 2010 St. Petersburg Open (d. Youzhny).
"To play in the final of an ATP Tour tournament is a big moment in my career," said Kukushkin. "[It is] just the fourth time that I will play a final. It is a big stage in my career... I am going to play against a very difficult opponent [in the final] and he is going to be the favourite, but I will just concentrate on my game. I am going to enjoy this moment, being in the final, and then let's see what happens."
After failing to convert five break points in a marathon opening game, Kukushkin earned the only break of the first set at 1-1 with a dipping cross-court forehand passing shot. The Kazakh, who won each of his 20 service points in the opening set, continued to apply pressure to Humbert's serve in the second set, breaking at 2-2 with great court coverage. After dropping serve at 4-3, Kukushkin won back-to-back games, booking his place in the final with a well-placed backhand lob.
Appearing in his first ATP Tour semi-final, Humbert was aiming to add to a strong tradition of French finalists in Marseille. Since 2006, the home nation has had at least one representative in 10 of the past 13 singles finals.
Did You Know?
All four semi-finalists at the Open 13 Provence reached the last four without dropping a set.