Internazionali BNL D'Italia 2021 - Day Eight
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas sailed through his Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon opener, knocking out American Tommy Paul, 6-1, 6-4.

The No. 2 seed played near-flawless tennis as he makes the most of a last chance to prepare for Roland Garros, securing victory in 75 minutes on Center Court.

Tsitsipas leads world No. 1 Novak Djokovic on the FedEx ATP Race to Turin after a Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo and a runner-up finish in Barcelona, but despite a full slate of clay-court tournaments, the Greek opted to add Lyon to his itinerary ahead of the second major tournament of 2021.

"I don’t feel exhausted, and I wanted to come to Lyon to test myself this week," he told ATPTour.com on Tuesday. "It’s another opportunity to show how far I can go and play more matches on clay."

A semifinalist for the first time at Roland Garros last fall, the world No. 5 was likely eager to forget a narrow defeat to Djokovic last week at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Taking a wildcard into Lyon, he enjoyed a first-round bye before opening against Paul, who put down a comprehensive victory over a former world No. 5, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsitsipas is the No. 2 seed in Lyon.

Tsitsipas is the No. 2 seed in Lyon.

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The American is a former junior French Open champion and, ranked just shy of his career-high ranking of No. 51, surely aimed to improve from his only previous meeting with Tsitsipas—a 6-3, 7-5 defeat at the Citi Open on hard-courts in 2019.

Still, the No. 2 seed showed no signs of fatigue early on as he raced through the opening set, winning 16 of the final 21 points after a protracted second service game.

Looking stronger to start the second set, Paul battled through a marathon service game and saved three break points—one by outrallying the Greek star with a thudding forehand winner—but Tsitsipas proved too strong, earning a fourth opportunity off a Paul double fault. As Paul approached the net, he could only watch as Tsitsipas sent a screaming backhand passing shot up the line.

Another backhand pass earned him a chance at a double-break lead but Paul capitalized off a forehand miss and pulled off some impressive winners of his own and stay in the match.

Dropping just four points on serve in the second set, Tsitsipas was unshakeable at the finish line, easing over the finish line and into the quarterfinals when Paul powered a forehand beyond the baseline.

Awaiting him in the last eight is Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka, a former rising star who is looking to come into his own after a debilitating knee delayed his transition onto the ATP circuit. Nishioka opened play on Thursday with a dramatic upset of No. 5 seed Gaël Monfils, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2).

Norrie Stuns Top Seed Thiem

  • Dominic Thiem followed Tsitsipas onto Center Court, only to endure a shocking loss at the hands of a surging Cameron Norrie, 6-3, 6-2.

The reigning US Open champion took time off after the Middle East swing, missing the Miami Open in an effort to maximize his clay-court preparation, and though he looked in good form to reach the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals, an early defeat in Rome sent the Austrian to Lyon in search of more matches.

"Madrid and Rome were good steps in the right directions," he said earlier in the week. "I liked the way I played there and I hope I can take this positive direction into Lyon and get some matches."

While Thiem needed a reset after a Grand Slam-winning season, Norrie began 2021 with a run to the Delray Beach Open semifinals and has only looked stronger on clay, reaching the quarterfinals in Barcelona and made his second career final in Estoril.

The Brit dominated with his lefty serve and didn't allow the top seed a break point throughout the 65-minute encounter, dropping just three points behind his first serve to secure just his second Top 10 win. Oddly enough, his first also came in Lyon, over John Isner in 2018.

Norrie will next face Arthur Rinderknech, a lucky loser who shocked No. 6 seed Jannik Sinner in three sets.