Tsitsipas finds his magic to edge past Rublev - UBITENNIS
Connect with us


Tsitsipas finds his magic to edge past Rublev

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev will face off in tonight’s second semi-final.



By Kingsley Elliot Kaye


A 4-4 head to head created expectations for a tight match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev. Stefanos led 2-0 on clay and had never conceded a set. The Greek came into the match as the favourite. Both matches however, the final in Monte Carlo and the quarter final of Roland Garros, were played in 2021, a year when the Greek was playing spectacular tennis, and was only halted by Djokovic, just one set away from the finishing line, in the final at Roland Garros. Notwithstanding his second triumph in Monte Carlo this year Stefanos is yet to find that magic.

Tsitsipas got off to an impressive start with 7 points in a row and earned 3 break points but failed to convert them. By attacking Rublev’s weakest point, his second serve, and resolving not to lose any backhand vs backhand wrestle, he eventually broke with his fifth break point.

Rublev appeared even more nervous than usual, throwing his racquet around and repeatedly bashing it on his leg out of frustration.

The next games went with serve, but the Greek, in spite of occasional errors, was constantly in control. He unsettled the Russian with continuous changes of pace and tactics, sometimes dragging him to the net with dropshots and mercilessly transfixing him with millimetric passing shots and lobs.

In the seventh game Rublev posed a slight threat when he reached 30 on his opponent’s serve for the first time. But Tsitsipas waved him off following up a serve with one of his flagship shots, a magnificent backhand down the line and maintained his lead.

Rublev proved his growing consistency with an excellent service game but at 5-3 Tsitsipas was impeccable and finished the set off with his fifth ace.

The first point of the second set saw Rublev charge forward on the first point, showing a different mindset to the match.

The first four games went with serve but momentum was shifting. Rublev was increasingly commanding the rallies whereas Tsitsipas was struggling to stave off aggression, his balls falling shorter. In the fourth game an ace and a wrongfooting however still did him the job, as well as a beautifully sliced backhand, which elicited an overcooked forehand from the Russian.

Rublev then held serve losing only one point and snatched the break in the sixth game after a tentative dropshot by Tsitsipas didn’t crawl over the net. With a 12-2 winning point series he dashed to a 5-2 lead.

Tsitsipas was unable to weather the storm and serving to stay in the set was overwhelmed by the power of Rublev’s groundstrokes, and lost the set 6-2, annihilated by a final backhand along the line.

A new set is often a new story and Tsitsipas from the very start appeared rejuvenated, once more battling away from the baseline and serving proficiently.

In the seventh game he found his best depth and aggression and for the first time in the set Rublev was cornered, facing break point. He saved it valiantly with a serve out wide which set up a flying crosscourt forehand and went on to hold.

Crisis was just deferred, for in the next two games Tsitsipas landed an 8 point winning streak, ripping Rublev’s service to love.

When serving for the match doubts came afloat and errors seeped in once more. Rublev grasped his chance and hit through to earn two break points. The plot seemed about to twist but Tsitsipas saved the first by putting away a sound volley, then two errors by Rublev chauffeured him to his first match point.

The Greek did not hesitate and with a kick service opened up the court for a crosscourt forehand in the corner which sealed victory.    

Zverev defeats Auger Aliassime and his own ghosts

The quarterfinal between Alezander Zverev and Roger Auger Aliassime, second and eighth seed of the ATP Mutua Open, presented manifold variables, which may confound the canniest fortune-teller. First of all, the absolute unpredictability associated with Zverev’s 2022 season, which most unexpectedly followed the absolute consistency he had delighted the pubic with just few months before.  

Highs and lows had marked his clay season too: from the amazing quarter final he won against Sinner in Monte Carlo, to his dejected loss to Rune in Munich. Felix Auger-Aliassime indeed is one of the emerging stars of tennis, with one of the most technically complete games across the Tour, yet he still has to prove his full potential on clay. His emphatic win in the previous round against a much more credited clay-courter, Jannik Sinner, surely boosted his perspectives.

Zverev’s recent hardships seemed to have been left behind, the way he stormed into the match. Though he conceded two points in his first service game, he was pounding down groundstrokes off both wings. His superb backhands down the line reaped points. He broke Aliassime in the third game, also helped by a double fault of the Canadian.

He cruised through his next service games, losing just one point. In the ninth game Aliassime, overpowered from the baseline, ventured out into one of his tentative forays to the net, which cost him a 15-30 lag.  Zverev clutched the opportunity and sealed the first set with a second break, playing the powerful, meticulous, overflowing tennis which had flown him to the stars in his second ATP Finals triumph in November 2021.

Zverev showed no signs of relenting pressure in the first service game of the second set, not even bothered by two double faults.  

Auger Aliassime, unable to cope with the greater power of the German, was constantly succumbing after few shots and lost his service again in the second game.

Game 3 was the longest of the match and could have been a turning point. Alternating winners and double faults, Zverev faced a break point, but saved it winning the longest rally of the match so far, 13 strokes. A third double fault brought in a second break point but again he saved it eliciting an error form his opponent with a powerful crosscourt forehand. He finally held serve.

The match was about to swing definitively in favour of Zverev in the fifth game. Serving 1-4 down, not supported by any encouraging percentage of first serves, overpowered from the baseline, Aliassime faced 4 break points. On the brink of defeat, he put up some fight and succeeded in holding a service game which lasted 16 minutes and which saw him win his first long rally of the match, 26 shots. 

This time Zverev appeared shaken. His first serve percentage slumped in the following game, in which he served his sixth and seventh double, and a second quivering serve at 120 kmph which Roger pounced on to chisel his way back in the match.

Aliassime then held serve, surfacing at 4 games all. Winning the first point off Zverev’s following service game, he and moved ahead for the first time in the set. The German didn’t falter and led 40-15. But another double fault and unforced errors poured in and Zverev faced a break point. He saved it with a brave angled crosscourt backhand. And in the next two points hit two serves at 214 km which tugged him to 5-4.

In the tenth game a rash foray to the net and unforced errors off the forehand by Aliassime gifted Zverev a first match point, but the Canadian erased it with a powerful first serve. Roger didn’t finish a smash off and Zverev earned his second match point with a backhand down the line. Auger played three aggressive points and was back even, 5-5.

When Zverev held serve comfortably and Aliassime was 30-0, this rollercoaster set appeared to be heading toward a decisive tiebreak.

Aliassime seemed to be cruising to a comfortable service hold after rising to 30 love then incredibly fell back into a swamp of unforced errors and Zverev closed out the match at 7-5.


Roland Garros Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek Plays Karolina Muchova for the Women’s Championship



Karolina Muchova after winning her first Major semifinal on Thursday (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The women’s singles championship match will be played on Saturday afternoon in Paris.


Iga Swiatek is playing for her fourth Major title, and her third French Open out of the last four.  She would become the first woman to win three RG titles in such a short span since Justine Henin, as well as the first woman to defend this title since Henin did in 2007.  And a fourth Slam title would tie Iga with Naomi Osaka as the second-most among non-retired female players, trailing only Venus Williams.  In short, a victory on Saturday would put Swiatek in elite company, especially on clay.

A year ago, Karolina Muchova left this tournament in a wheelchair, after turning her ankle in a third round encounter with Amanda Anisimova.  Multiple injuries across the last few years almost forced her into retirement, as doctors suggested she leave the sport.  But she pulled off an amazing comeback on Thursday against Aryna Sabalenka, where Karolina was down 2-5, 0-30 in the third, yet she won 20 of the last 24 points and saved a match point to achieve her first Major final.

Also on Saturday, the men’s doubles championship match features Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek (4) vs. Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.  Dodid and Krajicek lost last year’s final in three sets, though Ivan is a two-time Major champ in men’s doubles, including here with Marcelo Melo back in 2015.  This is a first Slam final in men’s doubles for Gille and Vliegen, but Joran was a runner-up here in mixed doubles a year ago.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Karolina Muchova – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Swiatek is 34-6 on the year overall, and 18-2 on clay.  She’s only lost two of her 29 career matches at Roland Garros, and only six of 58 completed sets. Iga hasn’t lost a set in Paris since the fourth round a year ago, to Qinwen Zheng.  She is 3-0 in Major finals, having never lost a set, and 13-4 in finals overall, though she has lost two of her last three.

Muchova is 23-7 this season, after going only 9-9 at tour level a year ago due to aforementioned injuries.  She’s the only player to defeat Aryna Sabalenka at a Slam this year, and is now 5-0 lifetime against top three opposition, with four of those upsets taking place at Majors.  Karolina dropped two sets to this stage, and this is only her third-ever WTA-level final, and her first in nearly four years.

Both players should be keen to win the first set on Saturday.  As Simon Cambers highlighted on Twitter, the winner of the first set has won the women’s final at Roland Garros in 19 of the last 21 years.  And Swiatek has only lost four times at Majors after taking the first set.

Muchova claimed their only previous meeting, which was a three-setter four years ago on clay in Prague, the biggest event in Karolina’s home country of the Czech Republic.  But four years later, Swiatek must be considered the favorite.  She has separated herself from all her competition on this surface.

But I do expect Muchova to challenge Swiatek on Saturday.  She has a well-rounded game with many offensive weapons, and will be feeling uber-confident after what she accomplished in the semifinals.  Plus, Karolina knows she is a considerable underdog, just as Iga knows she is a significant favorite, so the pressure will land decisively on the World No.1’s side of the net.  It should be a great final.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

Continue Reading


Roland Garros Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic Collide in a Huge Semifinal



Novak Djokovic on Tuesday in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

In arguably the biggest men’s match of the year to date, the World No.1 faces the 22-time Major champion on Friday in Paris.


Carlos Alcaraz has won his last 12 matches at Majors, and is vying for his second Slam final.  Novak Djokovic has won his last 19 matches at Majors, and is vying for his 34th Slam final.  And Djokovic is just two wins away from recapturing the World No.1 ranking, and surpassing Rafael Nadal with his 23rd Major singles title.  History is in the balance in Friday’s first semifinal.

The second semifinal features Casper Ruud, who is looking to return to the championship match at Roland Garros for the second straight year, and his third Major final out of the last five, and Sascha Zverev, who a year ago in this same round was wheeled off the court in a wheelchair. 

Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Novak Djokovic (3) – Not Before 2:45pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz is 35-3 this year, despite missing the Australian Open due to injury.  He has dropped one set to this stage.  This is Carlitos’ best performance at Roland Garros, after losing in the quarterfinals a year ago to Sascha Zverev in an extended fourth-set tiebreak.  A win on Friday would propel him to his sixth final of the year, and ensure he remains the World No.1.

Djokovic is 25-4 this year, despite missing Indian Wells and Miami due to his vaccination status, and missing Madrid due to an elbow injury.  He has also dropped only one set to this stage, to Karen Khachanov in the last round.  Novak is 22-11 in Major semifinals, and 6-5 in French Open semifinals, winning his last two, and five of his last six. 

Their only previous meeting was one of the best matches of 2022.  In the semifinals of Madrid, Alcaraz prevailed 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) after over three-and-a-half hours.  And that was just a day after defeating his idol, Rafael Nadal, for the first time.

Best-of-five almost always favors Djokovic, who is one of the sport’s best endurance players of all-time.  But 36-year-old Novak has not been fully healthy at any point this season.  And 20-year-old Carlitos is one of tennis’ fittest athletes, and has already proven his best-of-five prowess last summer in New York, when he won three consecutive five-setters, including an over five hour one against Jannik Sinner, just to make the final.

Betting against Djokovic, especially with so most history on the line, is a dangerous proposition.  This past January in Melbourne, he decimated the field despite being far from 100% physically.  But on Friday, I give the slight edge to Alcaraz.  He’s been the better and healthier player in 2023, and in this rare instance, best-of-five may not favor Novak.  And based on how long it took them to play three sets in Madrid, this could easily turn into a five or six hour contest.

Casper Ruud (4) vs. Sascha Zverev (22) – Not Before 5:30pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

2023 has been a tale of two seasons for Casper Ruud.  In the first three months, he was just 5-6, after an exhibition tour with Rafael Nadal shortened his off-season.  But Casper is now 16-5 on clay, and into his second French Open semifinal with the loss of three sets thus far.

Zverev was over three hours into his semifinal here a year ago with Nadal, with the second set yet to be completed, when he suffered an awful ankle injury which ended his season.  He is 21-14 on the year, and 13-5 on clay.  This is a third consecutive French Open semifinal for Sascha, though he’s yet to advance farther.  Two years ago, he lost a five-setter to Stefanos Tsitsipas in this round.

Zverev leads their head-to-head 2-1, with all three matches taking place on hard courts at Masters 1000 events.  Sascha claimed both of their 2021 meetings in straight sets, (Cincinnati, Bercy), while Casper took their 2022 meeting in three sets (Miami).

In 2023 on clay, Ruud should be favored to reach his second straight Roland Garros final.  His defense will be key in stifling Zverev’s offense, which while improving as the season progresses, is still not back to its peak level.  And Sascha is just 1-4 in Major semifinals, and has lost five of his last six semifinals overall.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

Continue Reading


Casper Ruud Topples Rune To Reach French Open Semis



Casper Ruud came out on top in his all-Scandinavian clash with Holger Rune to seal his place in the semi-finals of the French Open. 


Ruud, who is seeded fourth in the draw, battled to a 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, win over his Danish opponent in what was a topsy-turvy encounter on the Philippe Chatrier Court. It is the second year in a row that the Norwegian has defeated Rune in the last eight of Roland Garros and he now leads their head-to-head 6-1. He is through to the last four of a major for only the third time in his career. 

“I’m very relieved. I came into this match trying to not play with pressure but it is not easy when you’re playing a big match against Holger who is never easy,” Rune said during his post-match interview. “He is very aggressive. Luckily for me the first two sets he wasn’t feeling it too well. He made a lot of errors and I got a lot of points for free.’
“That helped settle my nerves but he fought back in the third set. In the fourth set, I was lucky to keep that break.”

The highly anticipated nighttime clash began in one-way fashion with Ruud claiming 12 out of the first 15 games with relative ease as an erratic Rune struggled to find his game on the court, hitting a total of 40 unforced errors during the first two sets. 

It wasn’t until the third frame that Ruud finally faced some resistance on the court as his opponent orchestrated the crowd to get behind him. Prompting the 20-year-old to hit a series of impressive shots to revive his hopes.

However, Rune’s comeback was short-lived as Ruud broke once more midway through the fourth set as he moved to a game away from victory. He earned his first match point at 5-2 following a double fault from his rival but failed to convert. Two more opportunities then came and went for Ruud before he managed to serve the match out in the following game.

“I think I did well,” he replied when asked about how he handled his nerves. “I kind of looked at it (the match) as if he was the favourite. He won the last time we played and he has had a better year than me so far.’
“He was hoping to get into his first (Grand Slam) semi-final and I was hungry to get into another semi-final. Luckily it worked out well for me.”

Awaiting the 24-year-old in the semi-finals on Friday will be Alexander Zverev who defeated Tomás Martín Etcheverry in four sets. He trails their head-to-head 1-2 but they have never faced each other on clay. 

“Ruud has been there before. He was in the final here last year, so he knows exactly what it means and what it takes,” Zverev told reporters.  

Ruud is now 16-5 this season when it comes to playing matches on the clay. Since the start of 2020, he has registered 86 wins on the surface which is more than any other player on the ATP Tour.

Continue Reading