Tsitsipas Lands 39 Straight First Serves In Comeback vs. Thiem

Greek closes gap to 4-5 in ATP Head2Head series
April 29, 2023
Stefanos Tsitsipas makes 39 straight first serves against Dominic Thiem in the Madrid second round. By ATP Staff

Stefanos Tsitsipas completed a dramatic comeback against Dominic Thiem with victory in a third-set tie-break on Saturday night at the Mutua Madrid Open. In a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) triumph, the Greek used a flawless serving performance to shift the tone of the match, then battled back from 1/3 in the decisive tie-break after seeing five break points go begging on return at 5-5.

The Greek made 39 straight first serves spanning from late in the opening set to early in the third and won 88 per cent (50/57) per cent of his overall first-serve points in the two-hour, 19-minute contest.

"That's fantastic, 39 is a lot," Tsitsipas said of the streak. "That shows that perhaps I improved today on my serve. That's a positive mark for me. I think I just owe it all to fluidity and just being relaxed on my serve... I think it's just pure relaxation and focus."

With victory in the pair's first meeting since the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals, Tsitsipas closed the gap to 4-5 in their ATP Head2Head series, including a 2-1 mark on clay. Both competitors are former finalists in Madrid, with Tsitsipas reaching the 2019 title match and Thiem finishing runner-up in 2017 and 2018.

The last man in the Madrid singles draw to book his third-round ticket, Tsitsipas will next face 25th seed Sebastian Baez, who beat Marcos Giron 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 earlier on Saturday.

"It was very physical and I think we both played our best," Tsitsipas said of his opening win against Thiem. "I'm in a way happy that we were able to show that kind of tennis... Today sort of showed what kind of intensity two guys that play single-hand backhands can bring to tennis. I'm happy I got away with a win. Things weren't easy at the very end but I just kept fighting."

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A semi-finalist last year in the Spanish capital, Tsitsipas entered this year's event on the heels of a run to the Barcelona final, where he was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz. But Thiem halted his momentum in the opening set with an aggressive game plan built around heavy cuts from his forehand wing. The Austrian saved three break points to consolidate his early break and build a 4-1 lead en route to claiming the first set.

Behind his stellar serving, Tsitsipas dominated the second set as Thiem's forehand began to misfire, with the Greek driving home his advantage with a slew of well-timed drop shots.

Thiem stayed in front in the final set behind several battling holds, none more dramatic than his final service game, in which both players produced some of their best tennis with the match on the line. After five deuces and more than 11 minutes, Thiem escaped. But Tsitsipas won four straight points to lead 5/3 in the tie-break and clinched victory on his second match point.

"I had confidence in my tennis and I knew that bit by bit I would be able to fight back," Tsitsipas added of the match as a whole. "My confidence showed in that second set where I was just serving really well and started finding my rhythm on the returns. The third set it was just pure fight. He's not someone that's going to give up and he hates even giving the slightest to you in terms of free points.

"I knew I was dealing with something big and that tie-break, it was just pure cash."

The Greek denied Thiem his first Top 10 win since he beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals. Thiem was also seeking his first Top 10 win on clay since beating Djokovic in the 2019 Roland Garros semis. The defeat dropped him to 7-12 on the season, while Tsitsipas improved to 21-6.

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