Dubai: Stefanos Tsitsipas continued blazing a trail for the young stars of the future with an engrossing and entertaining 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 win over French veteran Gael Monfils to enter the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, late on Friday.
Down by a set and 1-3, the 20-year-old Greek who later conceded he had a sore back coming on court, simply came up with yet another classic display of shots and entertainment to outwit an opponent 12 years his senior.
That win before a jam-packed Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium also meant a lot for tennis as the 20-year-old Athens-born lad became the first-ever Greek player to break into the top-10 of the men’s game since the ATP Rankings were introduced in 1973.
Until that tremendous fightback from Tsitsipas, it looked as though Monfils would go on to notch up his ninth win in-a-row following his title run at the Rotterdam Open two weeks back. After an early exchange of breaks, Monfils took the first set in 40 minutes with a break in the seventh.
He made early headway in the second set with a break in the third for a 3-1 cushion. That’s when the young Greek rose and responded in a display of tennis that had the crowd on their feet. He broke back in the sixth for 3-3 and then took the tiebreaker 7-4 and force the deciding third set.
The ultimate set was a test of skill, composure and mental resilience, and the younger player on court seemed to have a bigger dose of it. In the eighth game, Monfils had an opportunity to break, but the younger player saved four game points to hold. The Frenchman got a second opportunity in the 12th game as Tsitsipas committed two double faults, but it was Monfils who handed his opponent a lifeline with a strong forehand that blazed past.
Tsitsipas just took his chances in the tiebreaker to once again win 7-4 in a minute short of three hours and await the winner of the second semi-final between seven-time champion Roger Federer and sixth seed Borna Coric.
“Sweet and tasty,” that’s how Tsitsipas described his win against another top-10 player.
“I don’t know. I just played. I just played tennis. Probably a bit more concentrated than usual. I didn’t want to give it to him. That’s why I saved those breakpoints,” he smiled matter of fact.
“I entered the semi-final and I was so tired. I could not feel my body. I don’t know, I was not expecting much from me, to be honest. I was just playing. My main focus was not to go too much. If you would play good shots, usually I would run for them, give 100 per cent. But today I felt like my body will crack if I do that again,” he admitted.
“I take a lot from that. I have improved since last year. Beating the big guys, big players, players that have been in the top-10, means a lot to me. I want to get there at some point myself, and I made it today. I don’t know, probably a special day for Greece,” Tsitsipas smiled.
Earlier, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury combined to deny Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau an opportunity for a third straight doubles title with a 7-6, 6-3 win.