After recent disappointments at the US Open and the Italian Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas is looking for a good warm-up in Hamburg. The Greek hasn’t been past round four at Roland Garros but he made an ATP Masters 1000 final on clay last year. Before losing to Novak Djokovic in the championship match, he made a stunning upset over Rafael Nadal in Madrid.
Tsitsipas impressed in his first-round on Wednesday, fending off Dan Evans in a very decisive 6-3 6-1 manner. His backhand, the shot that’s often considered his weakness, was rock solid and the Greek was able to dominate the baseline rallies, wrapping up points well at the net if needed. On Thursday, the second seed faced a veteran clay-courter, Pablo Cuevas. The Uruguayan gave it his all, seeking a sixth top 10 win of his career.
Despite arguably being on the downward spiral in the past year or so, clay definitely brought the best out of him. Cuevas’s artfulness was on full display but the Uruguayan faded away mentally when he had to serve to stay in the first set. Tsitsipas stayed strong saving five break points in the first set and took advantage of yet another chance with Cuevas serving to stay in the match to clinch the win 7-5 6-4.
“A very difficult two set-win”
“That was an incredible fight that we put out there” said Tsitsipas after the victory. “A very difficult two-set win. There was a lot of emotion and there was a lot of tension. I’m glad that I managed to overcome these difficulties and break with love at the last game. That was a very good way to close it. I think today’s match was better than yesterday’s. It’s difficult when you’re starting a tournament you’re not familiar with the conditions, the way the ball responds, the courts and it takes quite a while for you to adjust.”
“It feels great (to play in front of the audience again) because I’m not just playing for myself. When I was playing at the US Open, the match would end and I honestly would feel a bit empty. It was a win, but it wasn’t as satisfying as today for example”. The Greek was also asked which part of his game is responsible for all the crowd support he gets. “I find a lot of people say that when I play I’m flamboyant and that’s really enjoyable to watch. Myself, I don’t know because it’s always better to get feedback from other people.” responded Tsitsipas. “I guess my single-handed backhand, something rare on the tour”. Despite the fact that it is indeed a rarity these days, Friday’s quarterfinal against Dusan Lajovic will actually be Tsitsipas’ third straight match against a fellow one-hander.
Finding a way to succeed in bigger events
Tsitsipas also addressed his apparent struggle to succeed at Grand Slam events. “I‘m just trying to get this out of my head that a Grand Slam week’s a different week. It’s not a different week. I think I should approach it the same way I’m approaching a 250 event. Of course, it is going to be longer in terms of sets and in terms of physicality but my mindset should be, yeah, the same way I’ve been doing things in the smaller tournaments” The Greek feels confident that improvement in his Grand Slam results will come and has a clear plan to approach the 2020 French Open. “Enjoy my tennis, play free, and just be happy on the court. How simple is that?”
Last year, Stefanos Tsitsipas ended his Roland Garros campaign with a five-set loss to Stan Wawrinka, which was widely regarded as one of the best matches of the season. This time, the Greek’s aspirations will be even higher as he arrives in Paris. The goal for this week is to gather as much confidence as he can from the 2020 Hamburg European Open. If he was to pick up the title, it would be just his second trophy at an event bigger than the ATP 250 level (ATP Finals 2019).