Reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas’s bid to win back-to-back championships at the ATP Finals got off to a rocky start against Dominic Thiem earlier this week.
With only a few points separating the two, Tsitsipas lost out to Thiem in a tough defeat but bounced back tonight, saving a match point during a tense tiebreak to beat Andrey Rublev 6-1 4-6 7(8)-6(6).
Rublev, who is now no longer able to qualify for the semi-finals, let the match slip through his fingers after fighting back against Tsisipas to almost take the game away from the Greek in the dying embers of the match.
After suffering a battering against Nadal on Sunday, losing in straight sets, the Russian played admirably raising his game in the second set, after Tsisipas broke his serve twice, cruising past him to win the first set in just 19 minutes.
The Russian looked slightly dejected at the start of the second set, but found his rhythm saving two break points in the 7th game, to go on to destroy Tsitsipas on his serve besting the greek 0/40 to win the set.
And it was as though Tsitsipas had lost his focus in the second set allowing Rublev steal the last game from him, making an uncharacteristic error to overshoot the court and give away the final point of the set.
23-year-old Rublev has had a breakthrough season gaining his first-ever top-ten year-end finish by winning 5 singles titles and was happy with his performance despite the bitter result.
“I am grateful for this season. I cannot complain,” said Rublev. “I won so many tournaments that I never won before. This year, I won more tournaments than in [the rest of] my career. I won more matches than (any other year) in my career. I am the one who cannot complain. I can only be grateful for this season. I became Top 10 for the first time, so this season was amazing for me.”
Rublev has certainly matured his game over the past few years, showing off his powerful passing shots to dispatch Tsitsipas, stretching the Greek to each corner of the court.
Great overview of Rublev’s improvements over the past three seasons. pic.twitter.com/MELL6w1gSw— Alex | Tennis 🎾 (@Alex_Boroch) November 17, 2020
He commented after the game that he was “really happy with my mental strength today” and his resilience showed again in the final set.
Tsitsipas advanced early and looked to break Rublev on his serve, but Rublev held strong saving 5 breakpoints to grind out the world No.6 to win the game after a five deuce stalemate.
“I have to be more concentrated, be more there when I have to,” said Tsitsipas who failed to capitalize on two break point chances, while also conceding 8 unforced errors during the match.
“My return, for sure I could have applied more pressure and played deeper in the court. But I think [Rublev] dealt with [the important points] really smart and mature.”
The match came down to the wire and it actually looked like Tsitsipas had given the game away in the final set, after going 0/30 down to fight his way back to prevent Rublev from winning a breakpoint, taking the match to a tiebreak.
After trading the lead, Rublev took the advantage, breaking Tsitsipas on his serve to bring the game level and capitalize on an error from the Greek after an enthralling 24-shot rally that gave the Russian a chance to win the match.
But the pressure got to the young Russian, who despairingly double-faulted on his match point and left the door open for Tsitsispas to come back and win the tiebreak and the game with it.
“It is amazing [that] I could turn around this match… Basically, it was supposed to be maybe 6-1, 6-3 and I was still there, I was still fighting and, in the end, I had match point,” said Rublev, who fought hard and showed mighty resilience to power his way back into the match after only managing to win one game in the opening set.
Tsitsipas’s win means that he’ll go 1-1 in group London and will need a win against world No.2, Rafal Nadal, on Thursday night to guarantee his spot in the semi-finals.
“It was an unbelievable match from both sides. We produced some incredible tennis,” Tsitsipas said in a post-match interview.
“The relief at the very end of putting all that effort and all that fight on the court paid off. I am very happy that I showed determination and a willingness to not give up when he had match point. It came easier when he was up 6/5, but then I produced some really good tennis and that helped me take the win.”
Another person who will be full of relief is world no.3 Dominic Thiem, who’s place in the 2020 ATP Tour Finals is now mathematically secure thanks to Tsitsipas’s win tonight.
Featured Image: Stefanos Tsitsipas (42947279285) by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA // https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stefanos_Tsitsipas_(42947279285).jpg // Licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0Download permissions