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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, October 7, 2020

 
Stefanos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas won 16 of the last 21 games charging into his first Roland Garros semifinal with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 win over Andrey Rublev.

Photo credit: @RolandGarros

Dancing on the edge of elimination in his Roland Garros opener, a recharged Stefanos Tsitsipas was flying high on the red clay today.

In a rematch of the Hamburg final, Tsitsipas played phenomenal all-court tennis dismissing Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 soaring into his first Roland Garros semifinal in style.

Thiem: Tried Everything to Keep Going

The fifth-seeded Tsitsipas will face world No. 1
 Novak Djokovic in Friday's semifinals. The top-seeded Djokovic defeated 17th-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.



Down 3-5 in the first set, Tsitsipas started to dab drop shots and play the short slice as an alternative to his heavy drives and exploited Rublev’s inexperience in the front court. That tactical shift completely altered the plot line as Tsitsipas soared through 16 of the final 21 games.

"He missed a few shots that he didn't before," Tsitsipas said. "I think tactics changed after. I started to feel my game a bit better. I started feeling my movement on the court also better, slightly became more comfortable moving around the court hitting at the same time. With the comfort I was feeling on the court, I give credit to that a lot.

"Also trying to take each point individually, and clear my mind before every point, think of my tactics, the potential scenarios I'm going to have to face in the next few games or points."

Tsitsipas’ stinging second serve—he won 61 percent of second-serve points compared to 38 percent for Rublev—and superior net play were key components to his comeback. Tsitsipas dominated net exchanges winning 16 of 17 trips forward, while Rublev was six of 17 at net.

"I think I play well first set. I had good chances," Rublev said. "In important moment when I need to serve for the [set], I didn't make it. But it's part of the game. He was there. He bring all the balls back. He return everything.

"Then after the first set, he started to play really, really well. I don't know, he was playing really good today I think. In my case, I was playing not bad. Some little mistakes. After the first set, he start to play really good."

It’s the second career major semifinal for Tsitsipas, who toppled his tennis hero, Roger Federer, en route to the 2019 Australian Open final four.

Tennis Express

All this from a guy who was nearly out of the tournament in the first round. Tsitsipas was down two sets before rallying past Spaniard Jaume Munar 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 6-4. Since that two-set deficit, Tsitsipas has reeled off 14 consecutive sets.

Returning to Roland Garros this autumn forced Tsitsipas to face the ghosts of haunting loss. In his last major, he suffered a gut-wrenching US Open defeat squandering six match points in losing to Borna Coric. Combine that with the scar tissue Tsitsipas felt after falling to Stan Wawrinka 6-7, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 6-8 in the 2019 Roland Garros round of 16 and compound that agony with the fact he was facing an opponent he had never beat before and you have a psychological study in responding to tennis trauma.

Ten days ago, Rublev repelled Tsitsipas, 7-5 in the third set, to capture his third title of the season. The 2014 Roland Garros boys’ champion picked up right where he left off in Hamburg.

Contesting his second straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, Rublev was up 5-3 in the first set and looked poised to collect a one-set lead.




A rousing Rublev served for the first set at 5-4 then lost the plot clanking four unforced errors as Tsitsipas roared back reeling off nine of the next 11 games.

Deadlocked at deuce in the third game of the second set, Tsitsipas again lured Rublev forward with a drop shot then passed him with a forehand down the line. That sequence helped him hold for 2-1.

Six games into the second set, Tsitsipas relied on some heavy hitting—and a fortuitous bounce—to break.

The Greek out-hit Rublev in a crackling 28-shot rally for break point. Rublev came forward and was in prime position for a volley when Tsitsipas drive ricocheted off the top of the tape high into the air prompting the Russian to shank his reply and drop serve.

A frustrated Rublev belted a ball in disgust and was still stewing as Tsitsipas breezed through eight of nine points holding strong for a 5-2 lead. Rublev couldn’t shake his annoyance and Tsitsipas exploited the lapse scoring his second straight break to snatch the second set in 29 minutes.




Tsitsipas’ all-court skills were vital in turning the tide.

The Greek again floated a no pace drop shot into the short court—and it drew another netted reply for break point. When Rublev rattled a framed forehand, Tsitsipas was riding high up two sets and 3-1 at about 90 minutes into the match.

Fittingly, Tsitsipas finished this win moving forward to block a forehand volley. The 22-year-old Greek improved to 11-2 on clay in 2020 and knows he must bring his best to reach his first Grand Slam final.


 

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