Every week, LastWordOnTennis will highlight a player to keep an eye on as tournaments are played around the world. This week’s selection is Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Miami Open moves into its second week this week. All the players remaining have at least three wins under their belt. With 20 seeds knocked out of the men’s draw, there have been some surprises along the way.
One man’s progress in the draw has not been so surprising, however. Stefanos Tsitsipas is through to the Round of 16 in Florida and is our pick for this week’s player to watch. Here are the reasons why you should be watching the World #5.
Tsitsipas is in better form than you’d expect
Tsitsipas hasn’t won any titles this year, so perhaps he’s flown under your radar. He’s in better form than you’d expect, however.
In Australia, Tsitsipas became only the third man to defeat Rafael Nadal from two sets to love down (Roger Federer, 2005 Miami Masters; Fabio Fognini, 2015 US Open). He also made the Acapulco final earlier this month. He’s beaten seven Top 30 players this year: Felix Auger-Aliassime, John Isner, Karen Khachanov, Hubert Hurkacz, Roberto Bautista Agut, Alex De Minaur, and the aforementioned Nadal.
His losses haven’t been shameful either. Russians Rublev and Medvedev have been red-hot this year, Zverev was inspired in the Acapulco final, and Pierre Hughes-Herbert played a well-executed serve and volley game.
In Miami, he’s continuing to tap into his winning form. His win against lucky loser Damir Dzumhur was fairly routine, but on Monday, he defeated Kei Nishikori in three sets, running away with the decider. Nishikori has started to find some comeback form so this was an impressive victory. His last match was against Lorenzo Sonego, who handed Djokovic his heaviest-ever defeat on a hard court. Tsitsipas dismissed Sonego’s dangerous game in straight sets.
An opportunity to win another big title
Tsitsipas has been the best of the rest for a while now.
His biggest title came at the 2019 ATP Tour Finals. However, this is by far his most impressive accolade to date. He’s reached two Masters finals, three Grand Slam semifinals, and five ATP 500 finals, all of which he’s lost. On all occasions, bar his meeting with Rublev in Hamburg, he’s come up against somebody higher-ranked than him. In Miami, the only man higher ranked than him is Daniil Medvedev, who seemed to be struggling physically in his match against Alexei Popyrin.
Tsitsipas will be more motivated than ever to assert some authority on the Miami draw and double his big title haul.
Tsitsipas’ game has grown greatly in consistency and strength in the last three years. One facet of his game that has arguably improved the most, and is often overlooked, is his ability to hit a passing shot.
The Greek is known to practice his backhand down the line incessantly. If an opponent approaches with a weak inside-out forehand, Tsitsipas can hit a short crosscourt angle or he can fire the down the line shot without blinking. His forehand is even more impressive, hitting the short crosscourt angle at a higher percentage on this wing.
A good example of his passing prowess was in his recent dismantling of up-and-coming Lorenzo Musetti in Acapulco. Tsitsipas won eight of Musetti’s 14 net approaches.
Expect to see flashes of brilliance when it matters most from Tsitsipas.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: This Week’s Player To Watch
Stefanos Tsitsipas has been on the hunt for another big title for a while now. Opportunity is in the air and Tsitsipas is in fine form so perhaps he will end his big title drought this week.
A promising encounter with Hubert Hurkacz awaits him in the quarterfinals. Tsitsipas is 6-1 against the Pole so he should fancy his chances. Be sure to catch it this Thursday.
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