Tsitsipas Slides Into Championship Match
Stefanos Tsitsipas was tested sternly on Friday evening at the Next Gen ATP Finals, but the top seed moved on nonetheless, as the World No. 15 beat 2017 runner-up Andrey Rublev 4-3(3), 3-4(5), 4-0, 2-4, 4-3(2) to reach the championship match.
"You feel great after winning such matches, because there has been a lot of effort," said Tsitsipas. "We [spent] hours on the court fighting, wanting that win. The one that gets it at the end, I think, is the most happy person on earth. I'm very satisfied."
It was no surprise that the pair went the distance. This was their first FedEx ATP Head meeting, but Rublev beat Tsitsipas in a third-set tie-break at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Quimper, France. At that point, the Greek was No. 196 in the ATP Rankings.
But a lot has changed since then. Last year, Tsitsipas reached Milan as an alternate. This season, Tsitsipas has climbed to a career-best World No. 15 and he is the top seed at the Next Gen ATP Finals, having recently become the first Greek to lift an ATP World Tour trophy at the Intrum Stockholm Open.
In the final, Tsitsipas will face the winner of Group B, Alex de Minaur, who also needed five sets to get through his semi-final, in which the Aussie dismissed Spaniard Jaume Munar. It will be their second FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting in a month, as Tsitsipas took out De Minaur at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018 in three sets.
"[Alex] is very quick. That's his biggest weapon, his speed on the court. But he has some weaknesses as well. Not all players are perfect," said Tsitsipas. "I'm going to have to play differently than today. And press but, not over-press because that's what he's waiting for. Be wise, be patient on the court and make him move, make him run. Come to the net, play good tennis, play clever tennis, play all around tennis."
Since both Tsitsipas and De Minaur were undefeated in group play at the Fiera Milano, the winner on Saturday will take home $407,000 for completing the tournament without a loss. Rublev, the only player in the 2018 field who competed at the inaugural event, will have to settle for a chance at capturing third place, as he will face Munar for that honour on Sunday.
"I have one more match to play tomorrow. I know it is going to be tough, so I'm going to have to be prepared for that," said Tsitsipas. "I'm going to have to be 100 per cent. And I'm going to just mentally be there and just give my last effort, give my last everything in that match. I think it would be a fantastic year-end if things go well tomorrow."