Tsitsipas breaks new ground
Tsitsipas breaks new ground
Stefanos Tsitsipas gave his many Greek fans plenty to sing about as he became the first man from his nation to claim a main draw singles match at the Australian Open, the No.14 seed a 6-7(3) 6-4 6-3 7-6(4) winner over Matteo Berrettini on Monday.
It follows a string of impressive firsts for the 20-year-old, who in 2018 became the first man from Greece to win an ATP title when he lifted the trophy in Stockholm. In 2017, Tsitsipas was the first-ever Greek to enter the ATP’s top 100.
Tsitsipas was initially made to work against the world No.52 Berrettini, who saved the only break point of the 50-minute first set, which the Italian went on to win in the tiebreak.
But helped by the passionate Greek supporters who created an electric atmosphere on Melbourne Park’s No.3 court, the free-flowing game that saw Tsitsipas rise to a career-high world No.15 ranking in 2018 soon started working more effectively.
The Greek’s next break point opportunity – in the fifth game of the second set – was easily converted, and as his winner count grew throughout the match, Tsitsipas smoothly controlled the outcome.
Claiming the second set in 36 minutes, Tsitsipas also kept his legion of supporters entertained as he twice broke the Berrettini serve to claim the third set in 38 minutes.
His own serve helped stave off any trouble. It was only in the fifth game of the fourth set that a forehand winner from Berrettini earned the Italian his first break point opportunities.
Tsitsipas saved the first with an unreturnable serve and the second with a successful challenge after the umpire had overruled on a Berrettini error. Adding to his confidence, the Greek closed out that game with one of 15 aces.
There were eventually 40 winners for Tsitsipas alongside 49 unforced errors, which highlighted his determination to dictate. Most telling was that the younger player claimed three of seven break points, while Berrettini couldn’t convert either of his two opportunities.
Arguably most impressive for the relatively inexperienced Tsitsipas, contesting only his seventh Grand Slam main draw, was his composure under pressure.
It showed as the fourth set went to a tiebreak, Tsitsipas opening with an ace and soon adding another. After two hours and 57 minutes, the match was eventually decided on a double-fault from Berrettini.
His improvement throughout the hot afternoon is symbolic of Tsitsipas’ rapid rise generally.
Ranked world No.50 when he lost to Denis Shapovalov in his Australian Open debut last year, the sixth-youngest man in AO 2019 singles draw is quickly becoming one of the game’s most keenly-watched competitors.
Certainly there will be many paying attention as Tsitsipas prepares for his second-round match against Viktor Troicki or Roberto Carballes Baena.
His many Greek fans are almost certainly preparing their chants already.