Tsitsipas v Ymer: Things we learned

 - Stephanie Livaudais

After battling through his opening rounds, the Greek No.4 seed cruised on Saturday

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple MessieursPhoto : Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

After coming back from the brink and facing a stern examination in his opening two rounds at Roland-Garros, last year’s finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas finally caught a break. 

The Greek No.4 seed was on a different level than Mikael Ymer on Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Saturday, dropping just five games in a solid 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory to reach the last-16 stage in Paris for a fourth consecutive year.

Here’s what we’ve learned from Tsitsipas’ commanding third-round performance.

Tsitsipas finds another gear

One of three men from a Nordic country in action today, Ymer was searching not just for the biggest win of his career over world No.4 Tsitsipas today.

He was also trying to give Swedish fans something to celebrate, as victory would have made him the first Swede to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam since Robin Soderling’s 2011 Roland-Garros run.

But up against Tsitsipas, a player he’s known since their junior days, the gulf in their quality and experience quickly made itself obvious as the No.4 seed overwhelmed Ymer with his booming groundstrokes and tricky, versatile game.

Ymer made a solid start on Lenglen, staying toe to toe with his opponent in the opening stretches. But once Tsitsipas turned on the accelerator, the world No.95 was left in the rear view mirror.

Tsitsipas comfortably reeled off the last five games of the opening set, breaking serve twice, and dealt the same exact damage in the second set as Ymer looked increasingly lost and racked up unforced errors.

He avoided the dreaded bagel (or do we say croissant in Paris?) in the final set, but by then Ymer was already down a double break.

Tsitsipas had mixed things up, reeling off four games in a row at the start of the final set, but the result was the same: the 23-year-old cruised in an hour and 32 minutes to improve to 4-0 in their head-to-head.

Stefanos’ not-so-serene progress

The Greek player will likely be relieved to have completed the match at the expense of just five games, considering his path to the second week has been anything but straightforward.

While the top half of the draw – stacked with tournament favourites like Carlos Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – has been getting all the attention, last year’s runner-up Tsitsipas has been moving through in Paris relatively under the radar.

Or at least, he’s been trying to, but he keeps getting dragged into marathon battles by inspired opponents.

Tsitsipas had to fight back from a two-sets-to-love deficit against Lorenzo Musetti in the opening round, a fitting way to mark his return to Chatrier after a heartbreaker from two-sets-to-love up against Novak Djokovic in last year’s final.

But it didn’t get any easier against qualifier Zdenek Kolar in the next round, where he needed more than four hours to secure a 6-3, 7-6(8), 6-7(3), 7-6(7) victory against the world No.134.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Messieurs, 3eme Tour
Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The forehand is firing – and so is the serve

The benefit of playing so much tennis across the first three rounds? Tsitsipas will be battle-tested heading into the second week, and high on confidence after finding solutions against three players with different styles.

Another good sign for Tsitsipas: his forehand and serve have been on song.

He fired 25 aces against Kolar and 10 aces against Musetti to bail himself out of trouble. And while he didn’t need the same firepower today against Ymer, striking just one ace in each set, his serve was just as lethal.

Tsitsipas won an imperious 83% of points (34/41) behind his first serve and 80% (12/15) of his second-serve points across three sets.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, 3e tour, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

And even more encouraging for Tsitsipas, he brushed away the only break point he faced on Saturday, late in the third as Ymer was desperately looking for a chance to break back at 0-4.

He also impressed from the baseline, where he struck 24 winners; 11 of those came from his forehand wing, according to Infosys Match Stats, a sign he credited to the sunny conditions.

"I played a bit late in the other two matches. Today was different, for sure. I felt much more free with my ball, I was able to create more,” he told Mats Wilander during the on-court interview.

"If there's one thing I would ask for, it's a sunny [Roland-Garros] this year."

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Mikael Ymer Roland Garros 2022, third round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Terre battue tales

Ever since he qualified for his first Grand Slam main draw as an 18-year-old at Roland-Garros in 2017, it’s been a love affair between Tsitsipas and the Parisian clay.

He won his first Grand Slam match here in 2018 and, three years later, reached his first major final in 2021.

The Greek player has been one of the ATP’s standout performers on clay throughout his career, and he’s only gotten better in the last two years.

According to the ATP, Tsitsipas has won 51 matches on the surface in 2020-2022, the second-most on tour trailing Casper Ruud’s 62. And he’s also reached the joint-second-most finals on clay with seven, tied with Djokovic and trailing Ruud by one.

Should they both advance, Tsitsipas and Ruud could meet in the quarter-finals.

But first, the Greek will take on the winner of another player of talented clay-courters: either Holger Rune or Hugo Gaston – the former, a Roland-Garros junior champion in 2019, and the latter, a home favourite looking to return to the fourth round.

There might be a major final happening across town over in Stade de France, but tonight Tsitsipas said he’ll be glued to their Court Philippe-Chatrier night match.

“They’re exciting, both [of them] and they’re playing some great tennis, so I’m going to have a look," he said.