Tsitsipas Plays ‘Smart’ To Overcome Zverev In Beijing
Greek to meet Thiem in final
Stefanos Tsitsipas needed all his mental strength to overcome Alexander Zverev 7-6(6), 6-4 in a dramatic semi-final at the China Open on Saturday.
The 21-year-old was forced to save three consecutive set points at 3/6 in the first-set tie-break and almost let a 5-1 lead slip in the second set, before converting his sixth match point. Tsitsipas, who improves to 42-20 at tour-level this season, is now through to his fifth tour-level championship match of the year (2-2) following his one-hour, 51-minute victory.
“I didn’t play phenomenal, but I played smart. Smart is more important than phenomenal,” said Tsitsipas. “I did things right when I had to do them… I didn’t go for crazy shots or crazy targets. I just mixed the game. I was hanging in there and trying to suffer, trying to give it my all on the court, to play another five hours. That was the mindset I was on.”
Tsitsipas arrived in Beijing with just one win in his previous six tour-level matches, but the Greek can now add a third FedEx ATP Head2Head triumph in four matches against Zverev to his earlier wins against Dusan Lajovic, defending champion Nikoloz Basilashvili and John Isner. The Marseille and Estoril titlist adds 120 points to his ATP Race To London total after securing the win, boosting his chances of becoming the sixth man to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in London. Tsitsipas increases his Race total to 3,370 points, which places him 1,135 points ahead of ninth-placed David Goffin (2,235 points).
His final opponent, Dominic Thiem, became the fifth man to book his spot at The O2 in London with his semi-final win against Karen Khachanov. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Daniil Medvedev will also feature at The 02 in London from 10-17 November.
“Thiem will be playing with a lot of intensity,” said Tsitsipas. “I’ve played him many times. I know his game consists of a lot of intensity, the power and the speed he puts in every single shot.
“He’s in a good form. He’s playing well. I just have to be serving well, playing well from behind, coming in. It’s important for me to stay focused in the crucial moments, in the moments where things are going to be decided in a few points.”
Zverev began the match quickly, stepping inside the court and firing flat shots to rush Tsitsipas into errors. The German came within a point of a 3-0 double-break lead, before Tsitsipas charged back with rapid court coverage skills to level the set at 3-3.
After trading breaks late in the set, Tsitsipas faced three consecutive set points at 3/6. But the Greek tightened his game and soaked up the pressure from Zverev to turn the tables on his rival. After levelling the score at 6/6, Tsitsipas fired an unreturned serve out wide and forced a volley error from Zverev to claim a gripping opener after 64 minutes.
“[At 3/6 down in the tie-break I wanted to] make every ball back. If the ball falls short, attack a bit more. Never let him feel comfortable with his shots, never feel like he can have options when playing,” said Tsitsipas. “That worked at that given moment. I just suffered to win those points.”
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Tsitsipas rode the momentum into the second set, claiming back-to-back service breaks from 1-1 to move within two games of victory. The 21-year-old continued to play with consistency from behind the baseline and denied Zverev with successful passing shots when the German attempted to shorten points with trips to the net. Tsitsipas failed to convert five match-point opportunities as Zverev made a late comeback bid, but the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion claimed victory on his sixth match-point opportunity as Zverev’s backhand return landed beyond the baseline.
Zverev was also aiming to boost his chances of returning to the Nitto ATP Finals. The German, who lifted the trophy at The O2 last year, currently sits 20 points clear of Goffin with 2,255 points in the eighth and final qualification position.