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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, November 16, 2019

 
Stefanos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas saved 11 of 12 break points topping Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4 to make history as the first Greek to reach the ATP Finals championship match.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

As a kid, Stefanos Tsitsipas grew up watching Roger Federer make magic at the ATP Finals.

The youngest man in the London field conjured his most dynamic tennis at crunch time making six-time champion Federer disappear.

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The 21-year-old Tsitsipas saved 11 of 12 break points conquering Federer 6-3, 6-4 to reach the ATP Finals championship match in his debut at the season-ending finale.

On match point, Tsitsipas slashed his fifth ace then flung his racquet in joy joining 2017 champion Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin as the third man to reach the finals in his maiden ATP Finals appearance.




"I'm so proud of myself today for a great performance," Tsitsipas told Annabel Croft afterward. "I really enjoyed my time on court. Matches like this you wonder how you overcome all the difficulties—break points down. It's a mental struggle.

"I'm really proud I managed to save so many break points. Roger was playing good and and inspirational as always. Playing him is the biggest honor I can have. It's robably one of the best matches I won this season. These are the moments I always wait for and these are the moments I want to prove the best out of my game."

Tsitsipas has held serve in a tournament-best 43 of 46 games posting victories over defending-champion Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Federer to become the first Greek finalist in tournament history.

The sixth-seeded charged into his sixth final of the season where he will face either Zverev or two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem.




"I'm really glad I played well, stayed calm," Tsitsipas said. "It's a great moment not just for me, for everyone else, my country, my team. I'm proud of myself, how hard I fought today, how concentrated I stayed in the breakpoints. Didn't crack under pressure. I was very composed and very mature in my decisions."

Unleashing the athletic all-court game he showed upsetting Federer in the Australian Open round of 16, Tsitsipas served with more command and fired his forehand with more ambition on pivotal points today. Tsitsipas consistently beat the six-time champion in key crosscourt forehand exchanges.

"Not easy to copy Federer; this guy does magic on the court," Tsitsipas said. "So for me, I'm trying to do half of what he does. He can be so good sometimes. Obviously we all have different game styles, we all come in different shapes and sizes.

"Also Dominic is in our [one-handed backhand] community lets call it. It's really nice to see single-hand backhand being alive. There's so much for me to learn. I grew up watching Roger as a kid, watching him at the Nitto ATP Finals, watching him at Wimbledon. I wish I could step out one day on court and face him. Today, I'm living the dream."

For Federer, it was another match of lost opportunities.

In his record 16th ATP Finals semifinal, Federer converted just one of 12 break points in a return performance reminiscent of the Australian Open where he failed to convert 12 break points falling to Tsitsipas. 

"I'm frustrated I couldn't play better, and when I did and fought my way back, I threw it away again," Federer said. "It was also parts of him. He did come up with the goods when he had to, and he was better than me today.

"It's the year-end. It's over now and I can't make it better. I tried everything I could, to be honest, you know. I tried to chip it eventually, tried to stay back and hit some. I tried to come forward. And for the most part I actually tried to play up in the court and tried to play aggressive, but of course with his aggression, it's not always easy because he always takes the ball very early himself too.

"I knew he was going to be incredibly athletic. He was just a little bit better today at all those little things."

In a clash of the oldest man in the tournament vs. the youngest, Tsitsipas saved a break point in the opening game when Federer floated a forehand return deep.

Though fans were chanting "Let's Go Roger!" from the first game, Federer struggled to tune into the muse falling into a love-30 hole in a sloppy service game to start.

Two bungled smashes from Federer, whose overhead is typically pristine, put the Swiss down break point. Stretching Federer in his backhand corner, Tsitsipas spun a forehand down the line breaking for 2-0.

The sixth-ranked Greek thumped an ace to back up the break for 3-0.

The man in black found his groove on serve. Twenty-four minutes into the match, Federer earned triple break point.




Tsitsipas, who saved all 12 break points he faced upsetting Federer at the Australian Open in January, denied all three break points quieting the threat and the pro-Federer crowd for 5-2.

When Tsitsipas served for the set, Federer made a fierce push. Driving a deep forehand return, the Swiss seized control of the point and never gave it back spinning a forehand for break point. Tsitsipas saved it with a forehand swing volley and a scream.

The Greek hit his first double fault on his second set point, but torched his second ace down the middle for a third set point.

Tsitsipas saved his sixth break point of the set as the ninth game escalated past the 12-minute mark.

An electric crosscourt rally saw Tsitsipas step in and rope his one-handed backhand down the line for a fifth set point, but he spun a forehand crosscourt wide and could not convert.

Finally, on his seventh set point Tsitsipas stuck a serve down the middle capping a tense 13-minute hold to close the 46-minute opener. Tsitsipas was tough under pressure saving all six break points he faced.




Despite earning break points in three Tsitsipas' first five service games, Federer was one set from elimination.

Spraying a slew of errors Federer painted himself into a triple-break point corner in the third game.

On this day, Tsitsipas was sharper hitting the running forehand. Taking the ball early, he cracked a crosscourt forehand drawing a netted error to break for 2-1.

Shaking it off, Federer streaked forward blocking a forehand volley for triple break point. Tsitsipas found Federer's backhand on three serves in a row to erase all three.

Undaunted, Federer flicked a backhand drop shot for his 10th break point of the match. Ripping a forehand down the line, Federer rattled out his first break to level after four games.




The depth and weight of the Tsitsipas forehand caused a shanked reply for break point. Federer fought it off, but Tsitsipas answered with a booming backhand crosscout for another break point.

Throughout the match, the Greek stepped in and crunched his forehand with conviction. A clean forehand drive created the third straight break giving the Greek a 3-2 lead.


Tennis TV

Tension spiked as Tsitsipas saved two more break points serving for the final then drew an errant forehand for match point.




Slashing an ace out wide, Tsitsipas tossed his racquet aside and beamed with joy at a one hour, 36-minute triumph.

"I remember myself being one of these kids here watching the event," Tsitsipas said. "For me, it was just I could never picture myself standing here But it did happen. Dreams come true."

 

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