Tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas photo credit: JC [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
It was another strong week for youngsters in the tennis world on the 2019 ATP circuit last week.
20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas won his third ATP title in Portugal, whilst 22-year-old Cristian Garin beat world number three Alexander Zverev to continue his fine form and win the BMW Open.
Playing for only the second time at the Estoril Open Tsitsipas found himself topping the draw as the number one seed. Following a lot of success last year, it has been a formidable start to 2019 for the man from Greece.
Stunning the world in January after beating reigning champion Roger Federer, Tsitsipas has kept extremely active on the tour, and this week took his third ATP title.
The youngster beat clay specialist Pablo Cuevas in the final in their second meeting. Cuevas was unable to break the Tsitsipas serve in the first set, as the Greek eased to 6-3 victory in just over half an hour.
Continuing inspired form Tsitsipas broke the Uruguayan’s serve in the very first game of the second set. Despite saving a break point in his next service game, and hitting a tremendous shot through the legs at the net, Cuevas was struggling to find any answers for the talent of the 20-year-old.
This was until at 4-3 down Cuevas out of nowhere won all four points in Tsitsipas’ service game to level the set. And two games later Cuevas found himself with set point at 5-4 up. But a feeble backhand return descended into the net and he failed to take advantage.
The players would have to settle things in a second set tiebreak, which Tsitsipas dominated to gain a 6-1 lead. Cuevas was able to force the fourth match point at 6-4 down, but this time Tsitsipas was successful with a cross-court forehand winner.
It was an impressive week for Tsitsipas who also beat former world number 7 David Goffin in three sets, after comfortably beating Guido Andreozzi and home-favourite Joao Domingues in his first two matches.
“I kept fighting, and I kept believing that I could win it in two sets and I think the mental part was big as it gave me a lot of psychological positivity in my game,” said the young gun with his trophy afterwards.
“It’s nice to have completed the clay-hard court title that I’ve been fighting for. Next is grass, or maybe even more clay-court titles this year, that would be wonderful.”
Garin steals the show
Whilst the tournament’s favourite and number one seed won on the clay in Portugal, it was rather a different story on the clay of Munich.
The BMW Open, also known as the Bavarian International Championships, saw top seed Alexander Zverev win the previous two titles in 2017 and 2018. Ranked at number 3 in the world Zverev would top the draw, but with recent poor form eyes were perhaps prepared to look elsewhere.
The likes of second seed Khachanov and clay-court specialist Cecchinato were among those considered to be the biggest threats to Zverev, but it was Chilean Cristian Garin who stole the show.
Winning his first pro title in Houston last month, the 22-year-old made it two titles in just 21 days. Overcoming the only man to take a set of Nadal at last year’s French Open Diego Schwartzman 6-1 7-5 in round two was impressive enough, but this was topped by his performance in the quarterfinal.
The last time Zverev has lost at his home country’s tournament was in 2016. But Friday’s match saw Garin become the second Chilean to beat the young German in two weeks, after Zverev fell at the hands of Nicolas Jarry last week in Barcelona.
After losing the first set 6-4 Zverev fought his way back to level it after winning the second 7-5. A topsy-turvy third set saw both men breaking serves twice in the first four games, but Zverev found himself with two match points at 5-4 up. After a close line call however, Garin was back level, and then won six of seven successive points to steal the set 7-5.
The impressive young Chilean destroyed Cecchinato 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal to meet Matteo Berrettini, also unseeded, in the final.
The Italian had also been in fine form, coming off victories against Philipp Kohlschreiber and Roberto Bautista Agut. However due to rain, the 23-year-old had to play his semi-final the day of the final.
It looked like the earlier match against Bautista-Agut had tired him when Garin swept him aside to take the opening set 6-1. Although a miss-hit from the Chilean gave Berrettini a late break in the second set which saw the match go to a decider.
After failing to serve the match out when serving for it at 5-3, Garin dismantled his opponent in a final set tie break 7-1 to lift his second ATP title.
“It’s amazing. I cannot believe it, so I’m very happy,” said Garin. “Of course I need to keep improving. This is just the beginning.”
This week sees the tour head to the Madrid Masters, with Roger Federer making his first appearance on clay for three years.
Eyes will also be on the rather off-colour clay court king Rafael Nadal. Nadal is surprisingly yet to win a title on clay in 2019 after being outclassed by Monte Carlo winner Fabio Fognini, and Dominic Thiem in Barcelona. If Nadal is to slip again eyes will certainly move to the Austrian, with Novak Djokovic and Federer big contenders too.