Tsitsipas stops Dimitrov to make history for Greece

 - Chris Oddo

The Greek is into the last eight after bouncing back from the brink in the first round.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland Garros 2020, fourth round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Stefanos Tsitsipas was a man on a mission as he marched past Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 7-6(9), 6-2 to become the first Greek player in history to reach the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros.

Now that he’s unlocked another personal milestone in Paris, a reporter wanted to know if Tsitsipas felt he could go all the way. 

“I don't know until this tournament is over,” he said. “Just play tennis and forget the rest.”

The No.5 seed probably won't be able to forget his recent defeat to his next opponent Andrey Rublev, who had the upper hand against Tsitsipas in their Hamburg final just eight days ago.

“It is very important for me to take this opportunity and fight harder this time, maybe do something better,” said Tsitsipas, who also fell to the Russian No.13 seed at the US Open last year.

“He's going to be difficult to play against. He has a very complete, solid game from all the departments. He has improved a lot his serve. He relies a lot on his power. He has very powerful shots. I think he for sure brings the best out of me when I step out on the court to play against him.” 

Tsitsipas, who has now won 12 consecutive sets after he dropped his first two against Spain’s Jaume Munar in the opening round, has tapped a rich vein of form over his last three matches. 

The 22-year-old was so focused on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Monday that he didn’t even bother to change his shirt when he was caked in clay after tumbling across the baseline during the third set. He just grabbed a towel, brushed off and went back to the business at hand. 

His kit may have been clay-stained, but the first-strike game of the world No.6 was clean and efficient in his first ever meeting with Dimitrov.

Aggressive from the first ball, Tsitsipas won 77 of the 123 points that lasted four strokes or less, and he didn’t drop serve once over the course of the two hour and 26 minute contest with the Bulgarian. 

“I knew that if I can be as aggressive as possible, play with my forehand, use my serve to create opportunities, they would eventually come,” Tsitsipas said on court after the match. 

Dimitrov, seeded 18th, threatened to make a match of it but failed to convert two set points in the second-set tiebreaker, and provided little resistance against Tsitsipas in the third.  

“The tiebreak was where all the money was,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m glad that I played good tennis and I didn’t panic. I stayed concentrated, stayed low-key and tried to take it point by point. I think it worked out pretty well at the end.” 

Stefanos Tsitsipas Roland-Garros 2020© Julien Crosnier / FFT

The quarter-finals will be a full-circle moment for Tsitsipas and Rublev. The pair met in the Hamburg final just over a week ago; two days later in Paris both players avoided disaster by rallying from two sets down to win their openers. 

Now they're ready to square off again in a high-stakes quarter-final.

“It's funny,” Rublev said after his match on Monday. “Both of us had a tough, tough week in Hamburg, tough final. Then both of us were down in the first round, two sets to love. Both of us came back. Now we are here and we're going to play each other in quarters. I hope it's going to be interesting. I hope we're going to show a good level, and I hope people will enjoy.”

Into his second Grand Slam quarter-final in his 13th appearance at a major, Tsitsipas knows that the road will become more treacherous from here on out. 

“It's going to be a difficult challenge,” he said. “I'm not expecting things to get easier from this point, for sure. Every single round is going to be more difficult than the previous one.”