Jan-Lennard Struff Plays to his Strengths to Reach Madrid Semifinals

Jan-Lennard Struff in action.

Jan-Lennard Stuff of Germany stunned fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 7-6 5-7 6-3 on Thursday to reach the semifinals at the Madrid Open. The 33-year-old Struff, who entered the main draw of the tournament as a lucky loser after losing in straight sets to Aslan Karatsev in the final round of qualifying, will now face Karatsev again in the semifinals. It is a first semifinal appearance at this level for both.

Struff stays aggressive

The big-hitting German has a number of qualities, but his movement around the court is not chief amongst them. Nor is consistency from the baseline. Understandably then, he did not look to engage in long rallies with Tsitsipas, instead trusting in his serve, forehand and volleys to keep points short and deny the Greek any rhythm.

Struff had to save two break points in his second service game in the first set. But Tsitsipas was not able to really threaten his serve again. With Struff taking a high-risk low-reward approach by trying to take every return as early as possible, unsurprisingly the first set went to a tiebreak. But Struff held his nerve to win it, rallying from 1-4 down to take it 7-5 when Tsitsipas could not control a powerful forehand return.

Struff used his backhand to good effect:

Halfway through the first set, Struff started hitting his cross-court backhand with more venom to target Tsitsipas’ backhand. That tactic paid off as the 24-year-old Greek mishit his own backhand a repeatedly. bStruff then changed his approach in the third set. He continued to pull the trigger early, but went down-the-line, as well as using his inside-out forehand to the open court. That caught Tsitsipas out time-and-again with the fourth seed having been cheating towards his backhand corner to defend his weaker wing.

That enabled him to get his only break of serve in the match and, thanks to an excellent serving performance in the decider, won him the match. More often than not, the German was the first to take the risk and, in the quick conditions in Madrid, it paid off handsomely.

Main photo credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports