Tsitsipas Stands Between Federer & History
Roger Federer is ready to take a crack at history. On Saturday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Federer will make his first attempt in a final to lift his 100th tour-level trophy, trying to join Jimmy Connors (109 titles) as the only two men to accomplish the feat. This is Federer’s fourth tournament and his first championship match since earning his 99th crown last October in Basel.
But standing in the 37-year-old Swiss’ way is reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 20-year-old Greek, who is set to make his Top 10 debut in the ATP Rankings on Monday, will take confidence from his win against Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open in the pair’s only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.
“Maybe [there is] a little bit [of a revenge element to the final]… Obviously, I was horribly disappointed and upset that I missed as many break points as I did [at the Australian Open, with] all the opportunities I had,” said Federer, who didn’t convert any of his 12 break chances against Tsitsipas in Melbourne. “That match hurt in some ways. But it’s part of the game. He did very well to get out of those tricky situations.”
Tsitsipas brings an eight-match winning streak into the final after triumphing at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille last week. The Greek is prepared for Federer at full flight, knowing there is history at stake.
“I’m sure he will be pumped up. It’s not easy. It’s not easy for both of us. He obviously wants to beat me. For him, that loss was a big thing,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m pretty sure he will come… [to] the court fired up, wanting to take revenge from me. I’m definitely expecting that.”
Both players have overcome adversity to make the final at this ATP 500 tennis tournament, with Federer losing a set in his first two matches and Tsitsipas being forced to a deciding set in three of his four clashes.
When they played in Melbourne, the 20-year-old Tsitsipas saved four set points to avoid a two-set deficit against Federer. The Greek showed similar fight on Friday in his final-set tie-break win over Gael Monfils in the Dubai semi-finals. Monfils led Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-1, and also had four break chances to take a 5-3 lead in the final set, before the Greek emerged victorious.
Federer vs. Tsitsipas Stats: 2019 Australian Open (Tsitsipas d. Federer 6-7(11), 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-6(5)
|Stat||Roger Federer||Stefanos Tsitsipas|
|First-Serve Points Won||79%||78%|
|Second-Serve Points Won||61%||64%|
|Break Points Converted||0/12 (0%)||1/3 (33%)|
|Net Points Won||50/66 (76%)||48/68 (71%)|
“He gets it done that way. It’s not the classic one-dimensional way. He has many ways to do it. That makes him tough to play, tough to beat,” Federer said. “He showed me at the Australian Open how hard he is [to play]. I hope I’m going to play well… We’re still far from [reaching 100 titles], it seems. I’m just going to try to focus and play good tennis.”
While this will only be the pair’s second tour-level match against one another, Federer admires Tsitsipas’ game. The 99-time tour-level champion likes the Greek’s knack for winning points in a variety of ways.
“What I like about [Stefanos] is how he’s able to take the ball early, time and time again. [With his] serve, he takes it early and comes to the net. He does that all the time. Then on the backhand side, he has more air, which gives him a bit more margin,” Federer said. “For a big guy, he moves well… Nowadays, all the big guys move well. I don’t know how they do it… It’s nice to see all the qualities that he has. He has different ways to win points, which makes it hard to play against.”
While this is Federer’s first chance to join the ‘100 Club’, Tsitsipas is not shying away from the moment. “The biggest joy is to beat the Top 10 guys,” Tsitsipas said.
Beating Federer to prevent history and win his first ATP 500 title would be his biggest victory yet.