Interestingly, o defending champion has lost his first two matches at the ATP Finals since 2006, and Stefanos Tsitsipas refused to snap that streak Tuesday evening. The Greek saved a match point to defeat tournament debutant Andrey Rublev 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(6), guaranteeing Dominic Thiem’s place in the semi-finals of the season finale. The Austrian has a 2-0 record in Group London 2020 and is now guaranteed to finish winner of the group. Tsitsipas’ Thursday clash with Rafael Nadal will determine which of those two players finishes second in the group.
“It was an unbelievable match from both sides. We produced some incredible tennis,” Tsitsipas said in an on-court interview. “The relief at the very end of putting all that effort and all that fight on the court paid off. I am very happy that I showed determination and a willingness to not give up when he had match point. It came easier when he was up 6/5, but then I produced some really good tennis and that helped me take the win.”
Tsitsipas played a tough three-setter against Thiem on Sunday, with only a few points making the difference. The same was the case against Rublev. But this time, it was even closer for the 22-year-old. Rublev won four consecutive points from 5/2 down in the final-set tie-break to earn match point. The Russian double faulted, though, and Tsitsipas took full advantage.
“Having the opportunity to play lots of matches like this, at such a high intensity, and always testing myself against these players gives me the opportunity to learn and grow,” Tsitsipas said. “It is a learning opportunity as well for today. Even though it was a win, I still feel like there is plenty to improve and get better at. I am sure being with that mindset, being willing to just put more and more effort into what I am doing and more sacrifices are going to pay off at the end.”
One of the keys for the seventh seed was digging his teeth into points. Rublev was frustrated with the number of returns he was missing in the opener, especially on the forehand side. But he simultaneously cut down his errors and increased his aggression once he was able to land more returns, and that proved critical in turning the tide.
“This match that I turned around basically was supposed to be maybe 6-1, 6-3, and I was still there, I was still fighting,” Rublev said. “In the end I had match point. In the end, I was almost there and I had my chance to win the match.”
First-timer Rublev has been eliminated from semi-final contention at The O2. He will try to earn his first win at the season finale against Thiem.