Tsitsipas cherishing autumn in Paris

 - Chris Oddo

The Greek bent but didn’t break in his first-round match, now he’s reaping the rewards.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland Garros 2020, third round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Until Stefanos Tsitsipas came along, a Greek man hadn’t reached the fourth round at Roland-Garros since 1936.

After today, the archipelago can boast a player that has achieved the feat in successive seasons, as Tsitsipas rolled past Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene in an abbreviated contest, 6-1, 6-2, 3-1(ret.).

Since falling behind Spain’s Jaume Munar by two sets in first-round action on Tuesday, the Greek No.5 seed has reeled off eight completed sets in succession to make his return to the second week at a major for the first time since last year in Paris. 

He was ruthless and efficient on Saturday as he powered past a hobbled Bedene behind 28 winners against just 11 unforced errors, to set up a fourth-round clash with No.18 seed Grigor Dimitrov.

World No.56 Bedene, who had his right ankle heavily taped in the second set after a medical consultation, was forced to retire without finishing the match.

Tabbed by many a pundit as a future world No.1 and Grand Slam winner, Tsitsipas has suffered his share of Grand Slam heartbreak in the past year, and it all started with his fourth-round defeat at the hands of Stan Wawrinka on Court Suzanne-Lenglen in 2019. 

Tsitsipas left that match in tears, wondering what might have been. Today the Greek was pleased as he contemplated the possibility of a deep run Roland-Garros in 2020. 

“It's something that I cherish and appreciate,” he said. “Being able to compete in a second week gives me a lot of confidence. It feels great. I've been putting a lot of hard work in every single match, trying to raise my level, play up to my expectations. I'm very glad that I am where I am today.”

Jim Courier, a two-time Roland-Garros champion in 1991 and 1992, remembers Tsitsipas’ instant classic with Wawrinka well. Despite that setback, Courier is one of the many experts predicting big things for the 22-year-old. 

“His match last year with Wawrinka was absolutely smashing at Roland-Garros out on Suzanne-Lenglen,” he told rolandgarros.com. “That was another close match that he lost. He's lost some tight ones in the majors. I would encourage him to think about how much upside he has, keep going with his passion. He's a great personality for our sport. He's going to do well. He's going to win majors.”

Tsitsipas’ last four Grand Slam appearances have experienced more turbulence than a red-eye through a winter squall, but the Greek’s game has been progressing all the while. In Grand Slam tennis, results don’t necessarily sync up with the evolution of the player. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland Garros 2020, third round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

A cluster of disappointing Grand Slam results might look disastrous on paper, but in reality they could serve to force a player to dig deeper and extract certain critical elements that could, in the end, take them higher. 

It has felt like a long time since Tsitsipas first broke through on the Grand Slam scene with a victory over Roger Federer and a semi-final appearance at the 2019 Australian Open.

In reality, not much time has passed. The promise of Tsitsipas and his streamlined game is still there, and a golden opportunity for a Paris breakthrough is waiting for him on Monday.