The US Open not too long ago misplaced in Stefanos Tsitsipas’ irritating run because the French Open ultimate
NEW YORK – From the first game it looked like Stefanos Tsitsipas had a big problem: 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz’s forehand.
It came in at a deep angle and it was incredibly fast. And before Tsitsipas could adjust again after switching to the defensive to return the cross-court forehand – if he even made it – Alcaraz often followed with a drop shot. That soft touch made Tsitsipas move forward from the other end of the square.
Tsitsipas had moments when he shone but never cohesively and consistently dominated throughout the game. He played his second five-setter and second four-hour plus match in a week and lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 0-6, 7-6.
“It’s one of those games and one of those feelings that makes you feel like you’re in control and it doesn’t really go that way in the end,” Tsitsipas said at the post-game press conference.
And he has had these moments too often since his French Open final in June.
Tsitsipas had a fairytale French Open run that year and became the first Greek player in history to reach a Grand Slam final, defeating Alexander Zverev in five sets to get there. Then, in the final against world number 1, Novak Djokovic, after leading two sets to love, he plundered and lost the next three sets. He didn’t recover.
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He went to Wimbledon as one of the favorites, but was shockingly eliminated in the first round and lost to the American Frances Tiafoe. At the Olympic Games he then lost in three sets against the French Ugo Humbert.
Friday’s game against Alcaraz was a repetition of similar mistakes over the course of the year when they didn’t take advantage of big breaks.
Alcaraz was constant and when Tsitsipas’ concentration waned, he threw himself and gave the number 3 seed no further chance.
And that surprised Tsitsipas.
“[Alcaraz was] beating winners after my first return, just having so much control which was surprising, especially in the fifth set. I didn’t expect him to raise his level that much, “said Tsitsipas.
“I went back pretty deep and put pressure on my returns. I don’t know how much harder to hit my returns to put pressure on,” he added.
After a grueling four-hour match in which he really had full control only in the fourth set, which he dominated 6-0, Tsitsipas played mostly on the defensive and struggled to take control as Alcaraz put one forehand on the other The end of his field flashed.
Throughout the game, he not only played against the 18-year-old Spaniard, but also against a crowded crowd from Arthur Ashe, who was on Alcaraz’s side the entire time. They sang “Carlos, Carlos” just before the breakpoints and booed Tsitsipas whenever they got a chance. Once it was after a warning for a time violation and then after a warning for a coach violation.
“I have a feeling that people don’t understand. You’re here for the show. You want to see tennis. You are very impatient, especially the new generation. They just want to get it done quickly,” he said.
Tsitsipas spoke about Alcaraz’s talent, saying the newly promoted was a “contender for Grand Slam titles”.
Alcaraz has had a breakthrough year by qualifying for the main draw of the 2021 Australian Open at the age of 17 and winning the first round against qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp. At the Madrid Open, he became the youngest winner in the tournament’s history, defeating Frenchman Adrian Mannarino before losing to his idol Rafael Nadal on his 18th birthday. After his third round appearance at the French Open, he also made the last sixteen at the Winston-Salem Open.
But Friday’s win against Tsitsipas is the biggest win in the biggest tournament he has played so far. With this win, Alcaraz became the youngest player to beat one of the top three ATP players since the ranking was introduced in 1973. He also became the youngest player to reach the fourth round since 1989.
“I just don’t know what happened out there on the pitch. I can’t believe I beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic match. A dream has come true for me,” he said at the press conference.
Alcaraz, who has trained with Nadal, has said in the past that he likes Nadal’s training routine and the way he hits the ball hard. When asked which athlete is most like his game, he said: “Federer. Tries to be aggressive all the time,” he said.
And Tsitsipas said it was the aggressiveness that made him so good, so dangerous.
“His ball speed was incredible. I’ve never seen anyone hit the ball this hard. It took time to adapt. It took time to develop my game around their style of play,” said Tsitsipas. “I’ve never seen anyone play such a good fifth set, to be honest.”
Tsitsipas said he was bitter after the match that it was one of those matches where he thought things weren’t going to go according to him even though he felt under control. He said if a few moments had passed – especially if he had won the set three tiebreaker – Alcaraz would have lost momentum. Even so, he said he was shocked to see Alcaraz’s comeback after his dominating performance in the fourth set, a bagel after a three-minute, 45-second toilet break.
“I didn’t expect him to improve his level that much, especially after losing the fourth set. He was a completely different player,” said Tsitsipas. There might be a reason Tsitsipas is bitter. It’s been three months and three Grand Slams since he made it into Week 2 of the tournaments.
And until he regains his rhythm, it will surely stay with him.