Tsitsipas Shines Against Tiafoe
Stefanos Tsitsipas came in as the favourite at the Next Gen ATP Finals, competing as the top seed. And the Greek showed why on Wednesday, beating third-seeded Frances Tiafoe 4-3((3), 4-3(5), 4-2 to become the first player to guarantee his spot in the Milan semi-finals.
“I never dropped my performance, I always stayed at 100 per cent almost, so [I am] very satisfied that I managed to stay calm and play every point like a match point,” Tsitsipas said. “Hopefully I can play like this in every match that I’ll be playing here at the Next Gen ATP Finals.”
One year ago, Tsitsipas was an alternate at this event. And after two impressive performances against strong Group A opponents, the 21-year-old knows he will have a chance to play for a spot in the championship match. But first, on Thursday, Tsitsipas will have an opportunity to go undefeated in round-robin play when he faces Polish No. 1 Hubert Hurkacz.
There will be plenty at stake in that duel, as undefeated champions at the Fiera Milano receive $407,000. Tsitsipas has never played Hurkacz in a professional match.
The Greek will be the favourite in that clash based off his performance against Tiafoe, this year’s Delray Beach Open champion. It was the pair’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, but Tsitsipas also defeated Tiafoe last year in Tokyo qualifying, winning that match in straight sets as well. The Greek won 78 per cent of his service points on Next Gen Arena, saving both break points he faced en route to a 70-minute victory.
In the first two sets, there was nearly nothing between the two players. In fact, before the tie-breaks, Tiafoe had won more points than Tsitsipas. But the recent Intrum Stockholm Open titlist got out to early leads on both occasions and did well on his serve to keep Tiafoe from sneaking back into the match.
“I believe having a good start in a tie-break, having a lead with a mini-break, maybe, helps a lot. When you can just stay more focused and calm on what you’re doing — it’s tough when you’re close in the score — so I try to focus when I get a good lead at the beginning and be aggressive. That’s the most important thing.”
After the second set, Tiafoe utlised one of the tournament’s innovations, speaking to coach Robby Ginepri via their headsets. And his fellow American tried to encourage Tiafoe to sneak forward when possible and control play.
“Keep this guy on the run,” Ginepri said. ”It’s good level, [you’ve] just got to execute in the tie-breaks a little better. Hey, keep your swag out there, don’t get down. This is a long match right now. You’ve got it. Let’s go.”
But Tsitsipas’ offensive pressure proved too much, playing aggressively off the forehand wing. And after earning the only break of the match, the top seed held out for the triumph.