Tsitsipas Downs Coric In Thriller, Draws Greece Level In Perth

  • Posted: Jan 04, 2023

Tsitsipas Downs Coric In Thriller, Draws Greece Level In Perth

Croatia’s Vekic eases past Papamichail in opening match, City Final level at 1-1

Stefanos Tsitsipas maintained his perfect start to the 2023 season on Tuesday at the United Cup in Perth, coming through a topsy-turvy encounter with Borna Coric 6-0, 6-7(4), 7-5 against Borna Coric to earn a vital City Finals point for Team Greece.

The World No. 4 took to court under pressure after Donna Vekic defeated Despina Papamichail to give Team Croatia a 1-0 lead in the tie, and he had to dig deep as Coric staged a recovery after saving two match points at 5-6 in the second set. The Greek was then in trouble at 1-4 behind in the decider, but he rallied to a thrilling two-hour, 32-minute win that left the Perth City Final at 1-1.

“Whenever I play [Borna], it’s definitely not easy, but I keep reminding myself that it doesn’t get better than this and his level of tennis is going to improve my level of tennis,” said Tsitsipas after the match. “So yeah, I’ve lost some, now I’ve won some too. It’s important to get matches against opponents like this that raise the bar high. They require you to find ways to win, even when you’re not feeling your best.”

Coric prevailed in both his meetings with Tsitsipas in 2022, including a notable victory in the final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, but the Greek showed no early signs of being affected by those defeats as he dominated the first set on RAC Arena. Tsitsipas’ all-around game was dialled in as he dropped just two points on serve in the set and was clinical in converting all three of his break points.

The World No. 26 Coric had shown impressive form in the group stage in Perth, where he opened with wins against Francisco Cerundolo and Arthur Rinderknech, and he reacted well to dropping his first set of the 2023 season. The Croatian produced a couple of searing backhand winners during a second set that offered few chances against serve.

Tsitsipas almost made his move in the 12th game, but Coric saved two match points to force a tie-break and then stayed consistent to level the match after opening an ultimately unassailable 6/2 lead. The momentum was all with Coric as he broke Tsitsipas for the first time in the match and opened a 4-1 lead in the deciding set, but the Greek’s big hitting continued to pull Coric effectively around the court. He won five of the last six games, finally sealing victory with his sixth match point.

“I was just trying to continue that momentum that I built from the very first moment when I entered the court,” said Tsitsipas. “He responded very fiercely in that particular moment, so I just had to continue with the way I fight, with the way I do things, and I’m so, so glad… That last shot was the moment I was really looking forward to and a very good down-the-line backhand in fact, it surprised me. What a relief.”

The City Final will be decided in the evening session in Perth, where Greece’s WTA No. 6 Maria Sakkari will meet Petra Martic in the No. 1 women’s singles match. Michail Pervolarakis is scheduled to take on Borna Gojo in the fourth singles match before a final and potentially decisive mixed doubles clash.

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Vekic had earlier given Croatia a strong start to the City Final with an emphatic 6-2, 6-0 defeat of Papamichail in just 64 minutes.

The No. 158-ranked Papamichail had impressed in her United Cup campaign so far, pulling out a three-set win over Isabella Shinikova on Day 1 and then delivering a superb performance in defeat against Alison Van Uytvanck. But the 29-year-old had few answers to Vekic’s relentless power.

Papamichail showed off her trademark grit in the first game, saving four break points for an early hold. But Vekic converted her sixth break point of the day in the third game, winning a rally that featured net cords and a cat-and-mouse volley exchange before Papamichail put a smash wide.

Thereafter, Vekic settled and began to dominate. The former WTA No.19’s return was in fiery form, particularly on the off forehand, one of which captured another break for 5-2. She leavened her power with finesse, too, with the drop shot proving increasingly successful. The second set was near-flawless from the Croatian, who conceded only eight points and did not face a game point during it.

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