At Queen’s Club in June, following a routine defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime, fellow rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas expressed, “It's upsetting obviously that he's better than me. I have to accept that he's better than me. I might never beat him, but if I think that way, just need to wait, years maybe, for that chance to come.”
A hyperbole perhaps, but his opportunity arrived just four months later and this time, Tsitsipas navigated a new narrative. On Wednesday, the world No. 7 finally solved the puzzle that nagged him since his days on the junior Grand Slam stage, overcoming the Canadian, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), in the second round of the Shanghai Rolex Masters. Tsitsipas had previously lost to Auger-Aliassime three times as a junior before dropping their first two ATP clashes earlier this season.
There was little to separate the pair of talented shot-makers. After trading breaks midway through the first set, Tsitsipas steadied the ship on serve to remain in front. Auger-Aliassime erased two set points to hold for 6-6, but a double fault at 3-3 in the tiebreaker was all his opponent needed to run away with the final four points.
The Greek continued to serve well, keeping pace with the 19-year-old. At 5-5, Tsitsipas created three break point chances, and while he didn’t convert, kept his composure to hold at love. He pressed Auger-Aliassime's forehand and drew consecutive unforced errors to gain control late in the tiebreaker, ultimately prevailing in two hours and three minutes.
Tsitsipas continues to march towards securing his first trip to the Nitto ATP Finals, holding a near 1,000 point lead over his next closest competitor. He is next in line to qualify, after Dominic Thiem became the fifth player to clinch a bid last week. For a place in the last eight, Tsitsipas will face Hubert Hurkacz, who was spotted scouting his potential opponents in the stands. Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head series 3-1, but Hurkacz won their most recent battle at Montreal in August.
Matteo Berrettini kept pace in his bid to qualify for the season finale at The O2 by winning his second-round encounter with Cristian Garin, 6-3, 6-3. Garin had toppled the Italian in a final set tiebreaker earlier this season to triumph at the clay-court event in Munich, but Berrettini was quick to ensure there would be no repeat outcome, breaking Garin twice in the opening set.
The 23-year-old will next take on No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, a 6-4, 7-5 winner over Reilly Opelka. Bautista Agut began the day with a 165-point lead over Berrettini in the Race To London and currently sits three spots ahead in seventh.
Defending ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev, sandwiched in between Bautista Agut and Berrettini at No. 9, prevailed in two tight sets over Jeremy Chardy, 7-6 (13), 7-6 (3). The German needed six set points to close out the first set and was down 5-3 in the second before rallying to notch his fourth successive win over Chardy. Zverev, who hit 21 aces to three double faults, will look to take another step forward when he battles Andrey Rublev. The 21-year-old Russian blitzed last week's Tokyo finalist John Millman, 6-2, 6-0.
John Isner set a potential third-round meeting with four-time champion and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. For the second day in a row, Isner did not face a break point and hit his spots on serve, blasting 19 aces to win the first-time meeting in 63 minutes. If Djokovic defeats Denis Shapovalov, he will carry a 9-2 record against Isner. The American’s two victories came on home turf at Indian Wells (2012) and Cincinnati (2013).