Milan | Tsitsipas secures semi-final spot
Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first player to advance to the Semi-Finals of this year’s Next Gen Finals in Milan after an impressive 4-3(3) 4-3(5) 4-2 victory over Frances Tiafoe requiring just 70-minutes to dispatch the American and harden his status as title favourite.
I never dropped my performance, I always stayed at 100 per cent almost, so [I am] very satisfied that I managed to stay calm and play every point like a match point, Stefanos Tsitsipas
The Greek 20-year-old, last year’s alternate for the event, found Tiafoe’s serve hard to deal with but was aided by the few unforced errors which arrived at convenient moments during the tiebreaks as well as a net cord in the middle of the second set, which trickled over for an ace as ‘lets’ are not replayed under Next Gen rules.
“I never dropped my performance, I always stayed at 100 per cent almost, so [I am] very satisfied that I managed to stay calm and play every point like a match point,” Tsitsipas said. “Hopefully I can play like this in every match that I’ll be playing here at the Next Gen ATP Finals.
“I believe having a good start in a tie-break, having a lead with a mini-break, maybe, helps a lot. When you can just stay more focused and calm on what you’re doing — it’s tough when you’re close in the score — so I try to focus when I get a good lead at the beginning and be aggressive. That’s the most important thing.”
The win means Tsitsipas, who has won both of his matches in the tournament so far, is guaranteed a spot in Friday’s semi-finals. Even if he were to lose his final match on Thursday to Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets, he has done enough already to progress to the knock-out stage.
Also through is Alex De Minaur who booked his ticket with a four-set win over Andrey Rublev, last year’s beaten finalist. De Minaur, the youngest player in the field at 19, displayed some impressive court coverage defeating the Russian for the second time this year.
Like Tsitsipas, the Australian leads his Group with a 2-0 winning record with one match to play against the American Taylor Fritz ranked 47, 16 places below him.
Fritz beat the wildcarded Italian Liam Caruana who, ranked 622, could be said was out of his depth in Milan. However he proved he wasn’t by taking the match to Fritz before succumbing, after 81-minutes, 1-4 4-1 4-3 (11-9) 4-2.
“I think I was a little worried because he definitely had it in his mind that he can beat me. I lost against Liam lots of times when we were juniors. We are really good friends. I can’t count how many times we must have played each other when we were 12 and 14 years old. That was definitely an interesting thing going into the match to think about,” said Fritz who is enjoying his stay in Milan and the event.
“As far as the format goes, I like it a lot. It makes tennis more entertaining and it’s trying something new. I think tennis needs to try to appeal to be more exciting and get younger fans involved. Everyone I have talked to said they find this more exciting. There is certain things I would definitely change. I disagree with coaching. I think tennis is individual and how you analyse yourself should have an important impact on the result”.
In the remaining match of the day, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz toppled Spain’s Jaume Munar 4-2 4-2 2-4 3-4 4-1 requiring a marathon two hours and three minutes to record his first win at the event and keep his chances of making the knock-out stage alive.
“The new format is different. It’s funny because you get on the court and do everything quick. You need to get your racket in the hand and sprint to the center and do the coin toss. For the warmup it actually works out. If there would maybe, one minute after, it might be good. You can get used to it, but for the first time it’s different”, commented Hurkacz who faces Tsitsipas on Thursday.