Stefanos Tsitsipas needed a win on Tuesday to keep his Nitto ATP Finals title defence alive, and he delivered just that in a thrilling three-set battle against Andrey Rublev to improve to 1-1 in Group London 2020.
But it almost got away from him after Tsitsipas breezed through the opening set, and he found himself needing a third-set tie-break and saving match point to see off his opponent 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(8). It’s a lapse he knows he can’t afford against his next opponent, Rafael Nadal.
“I have to be more concentrated, be more there when I have to,” Tsitsipas assessed in his post-match press conference. “My return, for sure I could have applied more pressure and played deeper in the court. But I think [Rublev] dealt with [the important points] really smart and mature.
“It was difficult, you know. I was 0/30 down in the very last game of the third set, but I was determined to turn it around and give myself another chance. That’s what I’m really
happy about today.”
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Tsitsipas avoided becoming the first defending champion to go 0-2 in his group since David Nalbandian in 2006, but the biggest challenge still lies ahead as he now controls his fate in Group London 2020. With Rublev unable to advance after going 0-2 and Thiem into the semi-finals undefeated, Tsitsipas must now overcome the only player who defeated him in his 2019 run to the title.
“[It’s an] opportunity for me to fight even harder and give my very best out on the court,” Tsitsipas said of his clash against Nadal. “I know it will require a lot of physical effort, and I’m going to have to go through a lot of pain and suffering, so it is going to be difficult match. I’m expecting a fight from my side.”
He’ll likely be expecting a fight from Nadal’s side as well, as he will seek to narrow the gap between himself and the Spaniard in their FedEx ATP Head2Head record, having claimed one victory in six attempts.
“I was very concentrated during our match last year and was playing each point individually. I’m going to try and play aggressive tennis, you can’t play defensive with Rafa. Try to play the rallies, apply pressure, serve well. It’s part of the game that I want to play against Rafa. I think everyone has to play this way.
“I just have to be solid. [I] have to be more solid than him to win. I know that. I have to start strong and finish even stronger.”
Source: Tennis – ATP World Tour