Tsitsipas v Arnaldi: Things we learned

Former finalist weathers Italian storm to reach fourth quarter-final in Paris

Stefanos Tsitsipas, fourth round, Roland-Garros 2024©Philippe Montigny / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Stefanos Tsitsipas has conjured one of his “craziest comebacks” to deny Italian upstart Matteo Arnaldi for his fourth Roland-Garros quarter-final in five years on Sunday.

For the best part of two sets, the Greek had more answers for his player’s box than his opponent’s fearless shot-making before he flipped momentum in one fell swoop for a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2 victory.

It booked a shot at revenge against second seed Carlos Alcaraz.

Greek hails fighting spirit

Frequent early mutterings of frustration indicated just how unsettled the Greek was given the level coming from across the net.

Poised and showing no dip in concentration, Arnaldi was looking to beat top-10 opponents in succession after he upended a rattled Andrey Rublev’s campaign in straight sets in the third round.

The world No.35 whipped a forehand winner on the run, which cleaned the line, before closing out the opening set two points later with a serve out wide and steely look towards his box.

Light on his feet, he boldly mixed in serve-volley winners, claimed a cat-and-mouse exchange at the net and threaded a pin-point lob on the baseline to conjure his first break point of the second set and maintained his flawless conversion rate for a 3-2 second-set lead.

After three set points saved at 3-5, the Greek fended off a fourth in the following game and finally converted on his ninth break point to turn the set and ultimately the match on its head.

“It was one of the craziest comebacks I've had,” Tsitsipas said. “The momentum seemed to be going his way the entire match. It was very frustrating on my end.

“I felt like I was trying my best, trying to make him move. Nothing really seemed like it was working. I think my spirit was the reason I managed to come back today.”

Patience pivotal to turnaround

Once sets were level, Tsitsipas played with greater conviction and broke early in the subsequent two sets.

It became relatively one-way traffic as errors that were nowhere to be seen early on in his 23-year-old opponent’s game began to creep in.

While the ninth seed finished with a meagre five of 21 break points converted he did enough on serve to dig himself out of trouble, winning 74 per cent on his first deliveries.

A backhand winner into the open court sealed the result after three hours and 11 minutes.

“Even at 5-3 in the second set I felt like I can come back, I felt like there was power in me to turn this match around,” Tsitsipas said. “I think that game at 5-4 when I broke him was the biggest pleasure I've experienced in tennis in a very long time… I was trying to impose and regardless of that I didn't really feel like he was backing down.”

Arnaldi gives Italians bright future

For the first time in the Open Era, Italy had reason to celebrate multiple players through to the fourth round at Roland-Garros in both men’s and women’s singles draws after Arnaldi, Jannik Sinner, Jasmine Paolini and Elisabetta Cocciaretto sailed through.

While Arnaldi’s campaign ended, the Italian men’s No.3 left with his head held high after wins over the likes of 29th seed Arthur Fils and Rublev for his second fourth round at a major following last year’s US Open.

“He's one of the biggest fighters I've played in tennis, and he deserves a lot of credit because he was pushing me to the limits,” Tsitsipas said. “He’s one of the strongest opponents I've had on the clay-court season so far. I really think we're going to see a lot of things from him in the future.

“There are players at certain moments who are fragile, but he seemed very composed and very strong in those crucial moments, so I had to work double the amount that I'm usually used to.”

Matteo Arnaldi, fourth round, Roland-Garros 2024©️Philippe Montigny / FFT

Tsitsipas ready to peg one back on Alcaraz

A year ago, Tsitsipas arrived in Paris with a chance to take the world No.1 ranking before Carlos Alcaraz put a swift end to those ambitions in the quarter-finals.

This time the Greek arrived just inside the top 10 and without a Grand Slam quarter-final to his name since.

After a confidence-restoring Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo, he was confident he had played his way back into contention ahead of a last-eight rematch with Alcaraz.

“Well he has said in the past he likes playing against me, so I hope he gets to like it a little bit less this time,” Tsitsipas said. “I hope I can get him to that stage that he's maybe not so comfortable playing against me, that's my goal going into the match. I hope that there are chances on my side that I can utilise.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland-Garros 2023, quarter-final© Julien Crosnier/FFT