Tsitsipas rallies back: Things we learned

 - Dan Imhoff

Greek fifth seed helps atone for painful US Open capitulation with first-round victory from two sets down.

Stefanos Tsitsipas Roland Garros 2020©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Stefanos Tsitsipas is not one to make life on court easy for himself since the tour’s hiatus ended.

Two harrowing defeats from the brink of victory – in the third round of this month’s US Open and in Sunday’s Hamburg final – plus a first-round upset in Rome to 19-year-old Jannik Sinner left the Greek fifth seed reeling.

In his return to Court Suzanne-Lenglen, the 22-year-old’s confidence took a further battering for two sets against a dogged Rafael Nadal Academy pupil, Jaume Munar, before he flicked a switch to prevail 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday.

These are the things we learned from his finest career comeback to date.

Winning on Suzanne-Lenglen shakes a triple hoodoo

Demons lurked when the 22-year-old stepped on to Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Wednesday. This was Tsitsipas’s first match since failing to serve out victory in Sunday’s Hamburg final against Andrey Rublev.

It was his first Grand Slam match since failing to convert six match points against Borna Coric in New York this month and his first match at Roland-Garros since falling to Stan Wawrinka in a gruelling five-hour five-setter on the same court last year.

“Playing a best-of-five can be very challenging and I’m really happy that I’ll walk away from Suzanne-Lenglen today with a W,” he grinned in a nod to the fourth-round Wawrinka loss.

Two sets down no worries for Hamburg finalists

Main draw action had already kicked off in Paris when Tsitsipas and Rublev were doing battle on the red dirt in Hamburg on Sunday. It meant both had to make a 900km dash and be left with just one day in Paris to prepare for their respective first-round assignments.

Unbeknown to Tsitsipas, Rublev had only just fought back from two sets and a break down to deny Sam Querrey on Wednesday night in his Roland-Garros opener out on Court Simonne-Mathieu. Tsitsipas had never achieved the same – winning from two sets down – and had only claimed one of four previous five-setters.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played a match like this before,” Tsitsipas said. “The emotions and the nerves at the very beginning were not there, but with slight adjustments and trying to find a way to win a different way, it wasn’t working out for me at all in the beginning.

“Nothing was working… Everything was not responding, but I’m really proud of myself, the effort I put and the amount of dedication and the crowd support.”

Munar could run all day

After a stint living in Barcelona, Munar – a born and bred Mallorcan – returned home to base himself at the tennis academy of Mallorca’s favourite son, Rafael Nadal.

Reminiscent of his compatriot David Ferrer – one of two men he had beaten in two prior five-setters – Munar covered every square centimetre of Court Suzanne-Lenglen to consistently hand his frustrated opponent one more shot to face. Nadal, too, would have tipped his hat.

Munar had spent much of his time since falling to Tsitsipas in the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals plugging away at the Challenger Tour level, but on Wednesday, his level for much of the contest belied the gap of 106 ranking spots between them.

The Spaniard – a junior runner-up to Rublev at Roland-Garros in 2014 – preyed on the Greek’s mind and nerves and left every bit on court in a 3h 12min duel.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland-Garros 2020© Cedric Lecocq / FFT

Having Dad back pays off

Tsitsipas reunited with his father and coach Apostolos Tsitsipas in Hamburg where the 22-year-old admitted having felt “a little bit lost in Rome” without him.

On Wednesday, Dad was back in the box with a mask bearing his son’s caricature.

The mask was not enough to conceal a bit of fatherly advice from the sidelines, however, which in one bizarre 30-second stretch, became one of two code violation warnings.

The first came for Tsitsipas taking too long on his serve and a point later for receiving coaching from Dad, before holding for 2-3 in the second.

It was all happening when the Greek called for the trainer to administer eye drops at the change of ends.

He could see clearly now, and three games later he began to wrest control of the match.