MADRID: Stefanos Tsitsipas’ journey to what he described as his ‘maximum potential’ has taken another significant step forward after he outlasted five-time champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, to reach the final of the Madrid Open.
Tsitsipas, who has won more matches on the tour than anybody else this season so far, produced a masterful display to tame and frustrate the world No.2. The ability of the Greek player to turn defense into offense drew both admiration and shock in Madrid. In total he produced 32 winners, of which 21 was from the forehand side, and saved 11 out of the 16 break points he faced.
“I felt I had more time to defend and attack, which might sound strange, but it felt like much better playing him on clay than on hard,” Tsitsipas commented about his latest match against the Spaniard.
“I served and volleyed pretty often, not that much, but I did come to the net a few times. I was returning much better today than any other day that I have played him.’
“Return games and keeping him in the rally on his service games, being patient, trying to find the height and the depth and opening the court. That was crucial.”
The king of clay headed into the match as the heavy favorite for multiple reasons besides his ranking. In semi-finals matches play at the tournament, Nadal had only lost twice in 10 appearances. Doing so to Andy Murray in 2012 and Gilles Simon in 2008. His head-to-head record against the Greek was 3-0 with him never losing a set against him. Furthermore, he had only been broken once in 27 service games played this week.
Those statistics proved irrelevant in Nadal’s latest match with the 20-year-old. Who is already an Australian Open semi-finalist and the highest ever ranked player from his country. The usually reliable Nadal was masterfully dismantled by Tsitsipas to the amazement of the Madrid crowd. During the opening set, the Greek saw a break advantage come and go twice. However, it was third time lucky for the world no.9. A return of the Nadal serve to the corner of the court rewarded him another break and the opportunity to serve the set out. Closing in on the surprising lead, he sealed the 6-4 lead with the help of a serve down the line followed by a backhand volley at the net.
With the prospect of a shock loss looming, a fiery Nadal responded with interest. Cheered on by his highly animated home crowd, the Spaniard began to display the play that saw him crush Stan Wawrinka on Friday. Winning 12 out of 14 points played during one stage in the second set. The dramatic recovery electrified the Caja Magica as a Tsitsipas backhand flying out enabled the five-time champion to force the match into a decider.
Despite Nadal’s resurgence, it failed to deter his younger rival. Engaged in a royal battle on the court, Tsitsipas rallied to a double break advantage to move a game away from a memorable win. Although Nadal refused to back down as he retrieved one of those breaks to narrow the margin, but it was too little too late. Three times match points came and went before the underdog secured one of the most memorable victories in his career. A Nadal backhand into the net sent him the final to his disbelief.
“It’s not been a good match.” A disappointed Nadal reflected. “I fought and did a couple of good things mentally. I trained around 5pm and it was very hot but it was more windy, colder.”
“I felt the ball better yesterday. It’s not been my best night. My opponent has been better when that happens you lose.’ He added.
The loss continues Nadal’s quest for the first title of 2019. Hampered by injury earlier in the season, it is the first time he hasn’t reached the final in either Monte Carlo or Madrid since 2004 when he missed those tournaments altogether.
“I think that it’s more normal what is happening right now, that what happened in the last 14 years, let’s say,” Nadal explained. “I think I have tennis ahead of me. I have time ahead of me. I’ll be able to try to win this kind of tournament that I was not able to win this year. And what I have to do is to be fit and to play properly and a high tennis level.”
Tsitsipas will play Novak Djokovic in the final on Sunday, who he defeated in Canada last year. The world No.1 prevailed in two tiebreakers over Dominic Thiem in his semi-final match. Djokovic is a two-time champion and last won the title back in 2016.
“I have never faced him on clay so I don’t know what to expect. I’m going to try to analyze some things to see the way he tries to play on clay.” The next gen star detailed about his preparation for Sunday’s final.
“I have seen plenty of his matches, but I’m going to try to adapt to the way he is playing on clay as fast as I can because I’m pretty sure he is not easy on clay, as on hard.”
Nadal is the 10th top 10 player Tsitsipas has defeated in his career.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Sidesteps Question Over Vaccination Status
The Greek also jokes that he will be having less bathroom breaks in Indian Wells due to one particular reason.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has declined to confirm if he has received a COVID-19 vaccination despite previously saying he planned to do so later this year.
The world No.3 was questioned about the vaccination during his pre-tournament press conference at Indian Wells on Wednesday. Earlier this year Tsitsipas came under fire after saying he doesn’t see a reason why somebody his age needs to be vaccinated and expressed concerns over the potential side effects. He also added that young people catching COVID-19 is a good thing as it helps build up their immunity. Prompting criticism from various people, including a spokesperson for the Greek government.
However, in recent weeks Tsitsipas has changed his stance on the issue and recently told Antenna TV that he will have his first dose by the end of this year. When asked by a reporter in Indian Wells if he has had it yet, the French Open finalist declined to answer.
“I’m sorry but I’m not able to provide any of my medical records,” he said.
Player vaccination rates in tennis are becoming a growing issue amid reports that the Australian Open may only allow fully vaccinated players to participate due to a health mandate which has been implemented by the local government. There is yet to be a formal announcement by Tennis Australia regarding their entry requirements. However, The Age newspaper reports that there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that only vaccinated players will be allowed entry by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
Tsitsipas’ immediate focus is on this week’s BNP Paribas Open where he is the second seed behind Daniil Medvedev. Speaking about the conditions, the 23-year-old joked it was ‘very dry’ and therefore he will be having less bathroom breaks during matches. Referring to the recent criticism he has received from some of his peers over the timing of breaks he takes.
“It’s very dry here,” Tsitsipas said.
“That is good for me because I sweat less, which makes for less bathroom breaks, which makes for less complaints. So a very good sign so far,” he added with a smile.
The hope for Tsitsipas is that he will be able to build on his recent experience at the Laver Cup where he helped Europe secure their fourth consecutive title. The event provides players with the opportunity to work alongside each other in a team format. Something Tsitsipas relished but he is ready to get back to singles duty.
“I think team competitions are necessary for our sport and we don’t get to be united a lot,” he said. “We always kind of focus on ourselves and our things and environment and that is what you usually see on Tour. Players doing their own thing. Not much socialising.
“At the Laver Cup, we all get to have dinners together and all get to hang out with each other. Of course, though, we all have our competitiveness and if we get stuck around we might share too much with one another, that is the mentality behind it.”
Tsitsipas is yet to win a main draw match in Indian Wells. He will start his 2021 bid against either qualifier Roberto Marcora or Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
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