Djokovic versus Tsitsipas in blockbuster final

09.10.2022    Views: 235
Source: KTF press-service
Author:
Greg Garber

Stefanos Tsitsipas has been an agent of change at the Astana Open.

In 12 previous matches against Andrey Rublev, going back eight years all the way to juniors, the winner of the first set always won the match. And when Rublev took the opening set of their semi-final encounter on Saturday, it looked for all the world that it would happen again.

And then, with Rublev serving at 4-5 in the second set, the 24-year-old Greek scored a break of serve to level the match. He did it again in the eighth game of the third set and went on to a riveting 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 comeback victory.

He’ll have to again rewrite history in Sunday’s final against Novak Djokovic, for the Serbian star has won seven of nine previous matches against Tsitsipas – including the past six.

Djokovic scored a strange victory over Daniil Medvedev in what had been an epic semi-final. After losing a second-set tie-breaker, Medvedev abruptly retired with a thigh injury. That left Djokovic «shocked» and disappointed for both Medvedev and the crowd.

And there’s another narrative to change for Tsitsipas. He’s into his ninth final at an ATP 500 event – and he’s 0-8.

«It’s unfortunate, honestly, that I haven’t been able to win those eight,» Tsitsipas told reporters. «I was very close, at least in two or three of them. I wouldn’t say that I’ve choked in any of them. It was just bad luck so far that I haven’t been able to get a victory in one of them.»

Tsitsipas has a lot going for him. The win over Rublev was his 53rd of the year – leading all players on the ATP Tour, one ahead of World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. He was steady against Rublev, striking eight aces and zero double faults, while saving five of six break points.

«In the end, especially when things got tough,» Tsitsipas said, «my concentration level spiked up, I was completely living in the moment and playing every single point individually. It helped me slow down time, helped me anticipate better.»

Tsitsipas didn’t know the identity of his opponent in the final when he held his post-match press conference, but acknowledged that Djokovic and Medvedev played a similar baseline game.

«My movement would be important,» he said of either potential finals matchup. «I feel like my baseline game can be competitive against those guys. They cover the court pretty well. I have the option also of coming to the net. A consistent serve is the key.»

The lopsided head-to-head record is slightly misleading; three of their past four matches have gone the distance. Djokovic was a five-set winner in the Roland Garros semi-finals two years ago. In 2021, he won 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the quarter-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome and prevailed in a memorable five-setter in the Roland Garros final.

Djokovic believes it might come down to who serves better.
«Happy with the way, generally, I have been serving,» he said in his post-match press conference. «In today’s tennis, on the highest level, you need a big serve. You need to try to get at least some free points on any surface.

«I’ll be playing against another big server, Tsitsipas. I know another battle is expecting me, and I am hoping I can deliver the best possible game.»
Tsitsipas, despite that spotty record in 500-level finals said he was «pumped» to be in another one.

«Every single opportunity I try to put the best of myself out there,» Tsitsipas said. «I don’t think there’s a reason to feel any sort of pressure. Or any sort of tightness in those circumstances because the finals showcase the best of the tournament during that week.»
 

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