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Tsitsipas savouring rise of ‘Team Greece’
Sixth seed won Estoril title and reached Madrid final ahead of Roland-Garros.
Anticipation swirled around Court Philippe-Chatrier for the arrival of Stefanos Tsitsipas and the Greek talisman didn’t disappoint with a clinical 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(4) display to dispatch world No.110 Maximilian Marterer.
The straight-sets triumph sends the sixth seed into the Roland-Garros second round to face India's Prajnesh Gunneswaran or world No.92 Hugo Dellien.
This time last year Tsitsipas had crept into the Top 40, building momentum towards the top of the game in a mesmerising whirlwind.
That has changed his position within the tennis landscape; now he is the target for a ‘shock’.
“I had a little bit of pressure and stress coming in that match. I wouldn't hide it,” admitted the Australian Open semi-finalist, adapting to playing on the major stage in just his eighth Grand Slam main draw.
“Every match that I play I have this mindset that if I win it, it's the best win of my career.
“So that's the way I'm thinking, because I know that every opponent can be dangerous. Every opponent can cause damage.”
The Greek had only posted one victory in his previous two visits to Roland-Garros and would have sensed danger from his opening opponent. Marterer managed to reach the French Open fourth round in 2018, before Rafael Nadal halted his progress.
However, Tsitsipas dismissed any threat of an upset on Sunday. The 20-year-old got low to curl away two inside-out forehand winners, the catalyst for an immediate break.
His reactive volleys were particularly in the groove, drawing “ooo” and “aah” from the captivated crowd.
Marterer kept over-firing, struggling to cause any consistent damage, with Tsitsipas’ reflexes and retrieval skills nullifying the German’s extensive power play.
The Greek was disguising his choices well, dictating play off the forehand wing and inside an hour had notched up two sets onto the scoreboard with exquisite ease.
“I’m very satisfied. I was playing really well the first two sets of the match. Better than I thought I would. Third set was tricky but I showed character. I didn’t lose my focus or get disrupted,” Tsitsipas told reporters.
“I felt like he started pressing more, started going for his shots more, faster, stronger. It went his way, I was couple times Love-30 on his serve. I can say he played pretty well on these moments. Yeah, stayed mentally strong and closed the tie-break at the end, which is good to start a tournament like this.”
His 36th winner, a piercing forehand approach, confirmed an ATP-leading 30th match victory of the season.
Although the 20-year-old would relish a chance to contend for the trophy, Tsitsipas is keen to quell expectations.
“I have to take it match by match. If I think too far, things might turn out to go reverse and go the other way around,” continued the sixth seed, who prepared for Roland-Garros by lifting his first clay title in Estoril before reaching the Madrid final.
“Obviously, I want to stay here as long as possible, because the vibe of this tournament is nice. So, let's just take it step by step.”