Stefanos Tsitsipas’ worst nightmare seemed to be coming true at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday. The 3rd seeded Greek was up against 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray in his tournament opener. In his most recent Grand Slam appearance, at Wimbledon this summer, Tsitsipas was bundled out in straight sets in his opening round against Frances Tiafoe. The 23-year-old had suffered a similar fate in New York two years ago at the hands of Andrey Rublev in four sets. He was staring at another first-round exit when he lost the third set on Monday afternoon.
In an instant classic that spanned for 4 hours and 49 minutes, the fans at the Ashe witnessed Murray turning back the clock to produce some of his vintage tennis to put Tsistsipas on the ropes. However, as it turned out, neither Murray’s heroics nor Tsitsipas’ stellar comeback was the talk of the town, as the latter’s extended bathroom break hogged all the limelight. Murray was frustrated by his young opponent’s extended break, and this wasn’t the first time when Tsitsipas was criticized for his behavior associated with the breaks.
Nonetheless, Tsitsipas must consider himself lucky to have escaped from the jaws of the defeat as the young Greek prevailed 2-6, 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in an iconic battle on an opening day at this year’s US Open.
The World No.3 will now lock horns against Adrian Mannarino in the second round on Wednesday. Mannarino himself staged a stupendous comeback to win in five sets after losing the first two sets against Pierre-Hughes Herbert in his opener. The southpaw Frenchman edged past Herbert 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in 3 hours and 48 minutes.
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Adrian Mannarino
Tsitsipas and Mannarino are tied at one-all in their head-head tally so far on the ATP tour.
Despite not being at his best, Tsitsipas has been in decent form on the North American hard court swing this year. The French Open runner-up was a semifinalist in Toronto and Cincinnati before heading to the US Open. A hard-fought victory against Murray in his opener must be an eye-opener for Tsitsipas, who is aware of the level of tennis he needs to produce if he fancies having a deep run.
The 33-year-old Mannarino might not hurt Tsitsipas in a way some other players on the tour would, but he i likely to commit fewer mistakes on his own. The Greek must show patience in the long rallies against the southpaw.
Mannarino is returning from a knee injury that he suffered mid-match against Roger Federer at Wimbledon. Following a taxing five-set match in his opener, it remains to be seen how he matches up physically against his ten-year younger opponent. Given his age, one can expect Tsitsipas to be fresh before he takes on Mannarino despite the physically taxing and marathon battle against Murray.
Considering Tsitsipas’ strong baseline game and his physicality, Mannarino must focus on effective serving and keeping the points short if he hopes to put the Greek under any kind of pressure. As far as the Greek is concerned, he would dearly hope to establish ascendance over his opponent from the get-go, unlike his tournament opener, where he struggled to gain any momentum in the first three sets.
Tsitsipas starts a favorite but needs to be patient and street smart against Mannarino, who possesses a slightly unconventional game. Tsitsipas relishes pace on the ball. However, Mannarino likes to time the ball rather than bludgeoning the ball. As a result, the Greek would need to generate his own pace to draw the 33-year-old Frenchman into uncomfortable positions on the court.
Can Tsitsipas cruise to a routine victory against Mannarino or will the Frenchman punch above his weight to push the Greek onto the ropes?
We’ll find out as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Adrian Mannarino are scheduled to lock horns in the evening session at the Ashe on Wednesday.
Main Photo from Getty.