Tsitsipas has overcome “Robbie Bats” (Brad Gilbert’s genius nickname for RBA) in the first QF match. The Greek awaits the winner of Nadal v Tiafoe that’s set to toss in about an hour.
We have been talking about Stefanos for about a year. There’s really nothing surprising about this run. Even his success last year on the clay, where he made the Barcelona final, for instance, and got spanked by Nadal, the confidence was transcending the discussion of a 20 year-old playing well, even then. He had that extra gear and that quirkiness you might attribute to someone who has his own rhythm, which pivots to genius and potential greatness.
I remember even watching a bit of the Thiem v Tsitsipas R2 match at Indian Wells last year, a match Dominic won, but then again the Austrian retired in the next round, which might be made a bit clearer with reference to this tough three setter he played against Stefanos (62 36 63). As we like to say here, one should have seen Tsitsipas coming even back then, prior even to the clay. Tsitsipas, of course, had a solid rest of the year, highlighted by his run in Toronto.
Have a look at his results. He beat a bunch of good players, made many R16, QF, SF and Final appearances at good tournaments, won the Stockholm 250, won the NextGen Finals tournament, etc. And, again, he beat a bunch of quality players in the process.
An interesting note on this match today against RBA had to do with the element of “chase” between the players. Against Federer in the R16, Stefanos was chasing, playing that role (barely) of the underdog, which can be quite motivating, perhaps even safe (the underdog might have nothing to lose, can play a riskier tennis, might be said to be inspired, which can certainly raise one’s level). One could describe the R16 win over Federer that way though by late in the third and into the fourth set even that balance of power had shifted.
But as Tsitsipas tried to close-out RBA today, the Spaniard clearly hurting and fatiguing from all of his magnificent tennis here in Melbourne and even prior 2019 peak form and competition, the Greek was the favorite in this match (despite what I think I heard the McEnroe boys say on ESPN — that “experts” called for RBA to be the favorite). He was expected to finish the Spaniard and advance. He had a bit of difficulty “closing,” needing that fourth set TB to finally end this affair.
Hats of to Robbie Bats. What an absolute genius run (which we talked about even prior to Melbourne — I posted a video of his Djokovic Doha win). Love this guy’s game and spirit.
So, we move to see who he plays in that bottom SF. Should I cue the gif? Okay, I’ll spare you that obnoxious, suggestive capture.
Let’s just hope Tiafoe is recovered and ready to play fully committed in this match in that “chaser” capacity. He has nothing to lose. Play hard, somewhat riskier tennis. Go after Nadal.
If you watched the Dimitrov match, and you’ve seen this American play before, you know his athleticism and natural power are for real. I said something about his tennis becoming sometimes one-dimensional. For me — and this is his 2017-18 tennis — his focus, more than anything, can hurt him. His tennis is NOT one dimensional or at least wasn’t in that R16 match.
Tiafoe came to net more than Dimitrov, especially early-on as he established control of that match. His creativity around the court was terrific, from his drop-shots, to his delicate play at the net, to his great side-to-side at the BL, which includes some nice work with the BH and a ripping FH. Like Tsitsipas, this youngster has both the real weapons and a hunger to become successful, to beat his opponent even if he’s a nice guy off the court. Indeed, Stefanos and Frances both have that necessary nasty, needed to negate nice-guy tennis. 😉
Having generated all of that praise, he could be compromised physically in this match. Everyone at this point has played a lot of tennis, against some difficult opponents.
Except for Nadal (fuck it):
He’s kept the matches short, for sure. He’s had a pretty forgiving draw, about which I’ve already said too much.
I’m optimistic about tonight (sorta, but not really . . .). I just want this young American to show us the guts and glory of classic major championship tennis (the physical health and endurance) to take Nadal to the pain cave. Nadal wins almost certainly, but Tiafoe, who’s body and style appear capable for war, hopefully continues this little youth movement in Melbourne.
Time to pay some dues, Rafa.
Some thoughts on two other players in this youth movement:
We had our eye on that Zverev match, absolutely. That loss is not surprising, yet it is. Lendl. The Czech great might have bitten-off more than he can chew on this one. Here’s what we said, specifically on that Raonic match: Now a very important test for the Lendl apprentice. Beating Raonic here would be a big-time elevation gain for Sascha. Raonic is a formidable opponent in a match like this: R16 at a major, playing well, big game, etc. Despite the presence of Lendl, the WTF title, etc., I have to lean Raonic here. But if Zverev can pull-this-off, huge win for the aspiring major champion that is Zverev. But he HAS to win these kinds of matches.
Yikes to the confidence of the young German and to anyone who has to play the Canadian. Milos is rolling. I don’t see how Pouille can handle all of that right now (I did NOT see the Coric v Pouille match, which I said interested me. I do like the Frenchman’s game, so nice to see him reappear after that solid burst onto the scene in 2017).
The other youngster is Medvedev. We nailed this. He was, according to our preview, to provide a whiff of resistance to the Serb before Djokovic carried on. That was a legit resistance! Sure, you figured the Russian would hit a wall, but Novak might have gotten just as banged-up, practically. He looks quite not right.
Let me reiterate the unsustainable style that is that purely BL game. How many 40+ shot rallies did we see? That was brutal. I got tired watching it, watching those athletes literally keel-over after some of those physically ruinous exchanges. Novak looks, again, not quite right, in the lower back, the hip flexor, etc.
Good stuff from Nishikori, as well, to survive that marathon. How about PCB’s reactions to that call by the chair in the fifth set TB? Have to respect the passion.
Enjoy the match tonight.