For better or worse, Stefanos Tsitsipas is becoming must see TV every time he steps on the court. After squandering six match points against Borna Coric at the US Open, the Greek fell in Rome’s first round to Jannik Sinner. He rebounded by reaching the Hamburg final, only to fall short when serving for the championship—up 5-3 in the third—against Andrey Rublev.
On Tuesday, Tsitsipas found himself down big against Jaime Munar. Many players would have thrown in the towel after such a disappointing month, but the 22-year-old dug deep and ultimately prevailed, 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, his first ever victory down two sets to none.
Next up for Tsitsipas is a rematch against one of his idols, Pablo Cuevas. Tsitsipas dispatched the Uruguayan, 7-5, 6-4, last week in Hamburg. Defeating a player in consecutive tournaments is never easy, especially when it’s Cuevas on red clay.
Although his career appears to be winding down, the 34-year-old is one of the best clay-court players of his generation, and certainly one of the best shot-makers. Who can forget this shot-of-the-year candidate (below) from the 2019 Estoril final?
Cuevas ranks seventh in active clay-court titles with six, trailing only the Big 3, Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka, and Fabio Fognini. He ranks eighth in all-time clay-court match wins among active players with 161. He’s not the player he once was, but he remains a clay court extraordinaire.
On the court, Tsitsipas will look to his all-court prowess to earn his fourth consecutive victory over Cuevas. Coming forward on red clay is risky, but perhaps nobody on tour covers the net like Tsitsipas.
The 22-year-old's net game is by far the most polished of any of his NextGen peers, but Cuevas will be happy to exchange heavy blows from far beyond the baseline. Tsitsipas has mastered the dump volley, an extremely effective play on clay.
There's no advantage to volleying deep when the ball will sit up and allow the opponent to rip a passing shot. Unless the court is wide open, a short volley that forces your opponent to lunge forward and hit up on the ball is more effective than a deep one.
While Tsitsipas has looked shaky as of late, according to his career win/loss percentage, clay is his most successful surface. Per to UTR, Tsitsipas has the fifth best chances of winning the title, behind Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Rublev. In tennis, things can turn on a dime. A convincing victory over Cuevas could be the spark Tsitsipas needs to make a deep run in Paris.
The Pick: Stefanos Tsitsipas