Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Alexander Zverev 6-3 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-3 in the semifinals at the French Open to reach his first Major final. Having made three semifinals at a Grand Slam previously, losing to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev respectively, it was fourth time lucky for the Greek as he squeaked past Zverev in the fifth set.
The stakes were high going into this match – with both players well aware what a fantastic opportunity this was to reach a debut French Open final. The nerves showed immediately for both players. Though Tsitsipas won the first three games, he was playing fairly safe, hitting few winners. Zverev’s nerves were less subtle as he missed the first two second serves he played with those double faults proving costly. Tsitsipas’ first serve kept him rolling throughout the first set as Zverev struggled to raise his level.
Tsitsipas’ tentative play and an unlucky net cord in his second service game saw him 0-3 down at the start of the second set. But Zverev was looking far from comfortable on his serve and sure enough, Tsitsipas worked his way into Zverev’s service games over and over again to reel off six games in a row. Tsitsipas hadn’t had to play lights out tennis, having hit only one winner throughout the match going into the third set.
It left Tsitsipas a bit undercooked as Zverev raised his own level to cause trouble. Zverev’s first serve speed and precision grew, double faults went out the window and his backhand was winning him rallies than had ended in an unforced in the first two sets. It was enough to leave Tsitsipas struggling to even get Zverev’s serve back into play. One break was enough to seal the set.Embed from Getty Images
The fourth was similar to the third. Zverev got an early break and continued to deliver mammoth first serves to maintain a steady lead. Tsitsipas tried to change things up, with more trips to the net and some drop shots, but it wasn’t making much of an impact on Zverev, whose game was in full flow. A fantastic reflex drop volley helped Zverev on his way to evening the match. The question was: who would blink first?
Nearing the end of the fourth, Tsitsipas had finally started to find a level of aggression on his forehand that he had been looking for throughout the match. Though he found himself down 0-40 at the start of the fifth set, he was able to utilize this forehand and some brilliant dipping backhands to survive a scare. Zverev was not so solid in the fifth and Tsitsipas pounced as a double fault and loose forehand gifted the Greek the crucial break of serve. Down 2-5 in the fifth, Zverev was able to save four match points to pile the pressure on his opponent.
Tsitsipas, however, did not falter. His forehand won him an important point at 0-15 before an ace on match point finally sealed the deal. Tsitsipas may not have played the match of his life, but he played well enough nearing the finish line to earn his place in the final. However, Tsitsipas will definitely have to raise his game should he hope to win the title and the extra mileage in his legs will not help his cause.
Nonetheless, the match was surely a highlight of the tournament due to the drama on display. Tsitsipas was also able to make history as the first Greek player ever to reach a Slam final, just a day after Maria Sakkari came so close to doing the same in the women’s draw. Now attention turns to the 58th meeting between Nadal and Djokovic which will determine Tsitsipas’ opponent in the final.
Embed from Getty Images