Tsitsipas beats Astana resident Kukushkin for 50th win of season

04.10.2022    Views: 108
Source: KTF press-service

Ravi Ubha

Stefanos Tsitsipas collected his 50th tour-level win of the season by beating one of the home favorites at the Astana Open.

The Greek — who sported his headband but lacked his usual moustache and beard — never faced a break point in the 6-3, 6-4 victory over Astana resident Mikhail Kukushkin on Tuesday. He registered a tidy 19 winners and 13 unforced errors en route to improving his head-to-head record against Kukushkin to 5-0. Last week, Tsitsipas locked up a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals for the fourth straight campaign.

He joined Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud in qualifying for the Turin showpiece next month. Tsitsipas and Alcaraz — the new No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings — are the lone duo to amass 50 wins on the men’s tour in 2022 so far.

It marks the second straight season and third time overall Tsitsipas achieved the benchmark — and he was well on pace to get to 50 wins in 2020’s shortened tennis year. Kukushkin’s ranking has slipped outside the top 200 but the 34-year-old said this week he still had plenty of motivation to rediscover the form that earned him a spot inside the top 40 in 2019.

Three years ago was also when Kukushkin tallied his last Top-10 win, over Roberto Bautista Agut. Tsitsipas’ flying start at the ATP 500 meant the wildcard was on the back foot, though, straight away. Just like the first home player to feature in the main draw this week, Beibit Zhukayev, Kukushkin dropped serve in his first service game.

Contributing to the break was a smash into the net with Tsitsipas stranded.

Tsitsipas had to dig out of 15-30 holes twice on serve in the opener, including when trying to serve out the set.

He produced three big first serves to avert danger.

Kukushkin’s lone title came on an indoor hard court — the same environment as this week’s event in Astana — 12 years ago and he continues to generate ample power on his flat groundstrokes.

His blistering forehand down the line to force an error early in the second set got the enthusiastic crowd going on Kids Day at the National Tennis Center. 

Tsitsipas kept coming, however. He created three straight break points at 1-1. Fine play on all three of them from his opponent ended his opportunity.

A stunning Kukushkin crosscourt backhand passing shot somehow found the line midway in the set but Tsitsipas broke for 4-3 when another backhand went long.

Squandering four match points against Frances Tiafoe in his last outing, at Laver Cup in London in late September, Tsitsipas took advantage of his first one against Kukushkin.

He opted to serve and volley on a second serve, with Kukushkin’s backhand return going wide.

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