Stefanos Tsitsipas is playing the Hamburg Open after a run of disappointing results since the return of competitive tennis.
The 22-year-old crashed out of the Rome Masters earlier this week, losing 6-1 7-6(9) 6-2 to world #81 Jannik Sinner. This follows a disappointing run at the US Open where he failed to covert six match points against Borna Coric–including three in a row–to fall short in the third round. Cincinnati the week before was his best effort since the return. The 4th seed lost in straight sets to eventual runner up Milos Raonic. Tsitsipas has not been the same since his return to action. Far removed from his triumphant maiden ATP Finals victory, beating the likes of Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem along the way, the Greek needs to recoup some form before Roland Garros–and fast.
He is playing the Hamburg Open alongside fellow top 10 players Daniil Medvedev, Gael Monfils, and Roberto Bautista Agut. However, some will say the 2019 Australian Open semifinalist will have the most to prove ahead of the French Open. His NextGen counterparts are all flourishing in the midst of this unprecedented time. Dominic Thiem has won his maiden Grand Slam, with Alexander Zverev joining him in his first Grand Slam final and Denis Shapovalov making his second successive quarterfinal in two weeks. The Greek could risk drifting further afoot from the pack, and so we have to ask: What is going on with Stefanos Tsitsipas?
That US Open lost to Borna Coric:
Tsitsipas lost 7-6(2) 4-6 6-4 5-7 6(4)-7 to Borna Coric in the third round of the US Open this year, describing it as “the saddest and funniest at the same time thing that has ever happened in my career.” Whilst Coric deserves the plaudits for a remarkable comeback, calling your most devastating loss as the ‘funniest’ in your career is a damming statement to the Greek’s mindset. He failed to convert six match points across the match and whilst his third round exit is the furthest he’s made it in New York, he will be disappointed to lose from such a promising position. Coric has seen his career stall since his 2018 victory in Halle over Roger Federer. Whilst he showed incredible grit and determination to fight back from 5-1 down, he should not have won this match.
The first set was even throughout, with only a tiebreak separating the two; Tsitsipas ran away with the last four points in the tie break to close out the first set. The Croatian cantered through the second set fairly easily at 6-4 before the third returned the same score in Tsitsipas’ favor. Now, this is where things get ugly. At 5-3 in the fourth the Greek let two match points slip, and then a further four at 5-4, three in a row at 0-40 up on Coric’s serve. In classic Tsitsipas style, he insinuated his head had gone, complained to his dad in the stands, and lost the set 7-5. The final set seemed to recoup some form after breaking for a 3-2 lead, but Coric remained level-headed and won on his second match point at 6-4 in the final set tiebreak.
He could not follow up on his semi-final success in Cincinnati and will rue the chances to close out the match and move forward into the fourth round.
Tsitsipas Rattled in Rome:
Tsitsipas arrived in Rome wanting to avenge his US Open loss, but also push on from his semifinal defeat to Rafael Nadal in 2019. A week before at the Madrid Open, the NextGen star became the youngest player to beat Nadal on clay, but fell short 6-3 6-4 to the eventual winner. This year however, fortunes were not in favor of the 22-year-old. The third seed for the 2020 Italian Open crashed out in the round of 32, falling short to wildcard Jannik Sinner. Despite an admirable comeback from 5-2 down in the second set, Stefanos endured a breadstick in the first set and only won two games in the third to lose 6-1, 7-6(9), 6-2.
The reigning ATP Finals champion looked a shadow of last year’s semi finalist, losing a successive seven games from 2-1 down in the first set to 3-0 down in the second. He was broken three times by the 19-year-old in the first 30 minutes, but sparked a resurgence as he faced crashing out of the tournament in just over an hour. Two breaks at 3-5 and 5-5 led to a second set tiebreak with even more drama. Tsitsipas ran away at the start to take a 4-1 lead, but the Italian forced a comeback and choked two set points at 7-6 and 9-8, eventually losing 11-9. This return to form did not last however, as the world number 6 lost the first four games of the third set.
A far cry from their match in this same competition last year in which Tsitsipas walked away a 6-3 6-2 winner, and a worrying sign going in to the French Open. However, there’s still one more tournament to come.
A last shred of hope in Hamburg:
Welcome to Hamburg 👋
— ATP Tour (@atptour) September 18, 2020
With preparations cut short before the French Open, Tsitsipas has registered himself into the Hamburg Open for the first time in his career. Entry comes not as a luxury for the Greek, but as a necessity given his recent run of performances. He faces a tough route to the final should he make it so far, though the draw is quickly opening up. He is likely to face last year’s runner up Andrey Rublev from the other side if he reaches the final stage.
Tsitsipas is a player with plenty of potential and a career with much longevity and excitement still to come. Whilst we’re yet to see the best of the 22-year-old, we’ve been treated to glimpses of the player he can become, and here’s to hoping his first Grand Slam comes sooner rather than later.
Main Photo from Getty.