Stefanos Tsitsipas wasn’t always the flashiest player in his Mutua Madrid Open quarter-final against Alexander Zverev, but Greece’s #NextGenATP star rode the waves of momentum well to reach his second ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.
The 20-year-old Tsitsipas beat Zverev for the second time in a row, eliminating the defending champion 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in front of a lively Friday evening crowd in the Spanish capital.
The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion will next face five-time champion Rafael Nadal, who dismissed Swiss Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2. Tsitsipas trails Nadal 0-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, which includes their 2018 Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell final, also on clay.
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“I’m really happy and satisfied with my performance. I think I deserved the match at the end. I was playing really well, feeling really comfortable on the court. When you feel like this, you can do miracles. So I’m really enjoying the process, really enjoying my stay here until now, and I really hope to do even better in the future,” Tsitsipas said.
For stretches, Zverev couldn’t be touched during their third FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting (Tsitsipas leads 2-1), landing first serves at will and hitting inside-out backhand winners behind the Greek. But while Tsitsipas didn’t reach Zverev’s highs, he also didn’t reach his lows.
The third-seeded German erased four break points in his first two service games, and the two looked destined for a first-set tie-break. Tsitsipas, however, broke to love in the 11th game as his fans raised their Greek flags and shouted “Tsit-si-pas! Tsit-si-pas!”
“People were cheering my name, and they were very full of joy watching me play, and that gives me extra motivation,” Tsitsipas said. “People are enjoying it. I’m enjoying it. It feels like a really nice atmosphere… I’m really glad people support me, and that people love my game.”
The Greek broke down Zverev’s forehand, which contributed seven of his 14 unforced errors in the opening set. But Zverev didn’t stay down.
He played his best tennis in the second set, landing 90 per cent of his first serves – and ignited the crowd himself with a tweener-plus-winner combination as he held for 4-3.
Zverev yelled at the fans, prodding them to get more involved as he walked to his chair for the changeover. “Come on!” he shouted. “I can’t hear you!” He then proceeded to win the next eight points and the second set.
But the same serve that carried Zverev to the 2018 title – he didn’t get broken last year – and helped him tie up his the quarter-final against Tsitsipas ultimately let him down in the decider.
Zverev, while serving at 1-2, double faulted twice, including on break point, and Tsitsipas continued to apply pressure, winning 73 per cent of his net points (24/33) and broke in the final game.
“He’s playing very good. He’s obviously improved a lot. His serve is very, very good, I was surprised today. And the second shot, he hits it unbelievably aggressive so it was not easy. I actually thought I played really well the first two sets,” said Zverev, who had three break points at 1-1 in the third. “If I played a little more aggressive in that third set on break points, maybe I go up a break and win the match as well. But everything happens for a reason.”