Stefanos Tsitsipas makes first ATP final in Barcelona - Stats behind Greek teen's dream run

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Unstoppable: Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Stefanos Tsitipas‘ dream week in Barcelona continued as the 19-year-old Greek stormed into the final with a 7-5, 6-3 win over fifth-seeded home favourite Pablo Carreno-Busta on Saturday.

The former junior world No. 1 awaits the winner of the semi-final showdown between 10-time champion Rafael Nadal and world No. 10 David Goffin.

Tsitsipas is looking to become the first unseeded champion in Barcelona since Gaston Gaudio won the title in 2002.

The Next Gen star has made incredible progress in 2018, making quarter-finals in Doha and Dubai and now the final in Barcelona.

Here’s a closer look at the stats behind Tsitsipas’ breakthrough week in Catalunya.

1 – Tsitsipas is into the first ATP final of his career and is now 1-1 in ATP semi-finals.

1 – Tsitsipas owned just 1 tour-level match win on clay prior to this week.

2 – Tsitspas will rise to No. 2 in the ATP Race to Milan standings by virtue of making the Barcelona final.

4 – consecutive seeds Tsitsipas has defeated en route to the Barcelona final – No. 7 seed Diego Schwartzman, No. 10 Ramos-Vinolas, No. 3 Dominic Thiem and No. 5 Carreno-Busta.

10 – sets won and zero lost for Tsitsipas on his way to the final.

18 – aces Tsitsipas has struck in 5 matches this week.

19 – at 19 years of age, Tsitsipas is the youngest finalist in Barcelona since Nadal won the title there in 2005 as an 18-year-old.

43 – Tsitsipas has held serve in 43 of 48 service games played in Barcelona this week.

44 – Tsitsipas’ projected ranking for reaching the final in Barcelona – a career-high.

45 – years since a Greek man had last reached an ATP tour level final. Tsitsipas is the first Greek man to do so since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos in Des Moines in 1973.

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Egypt's Mohamed Safwat one victory away from historic Challenger title in Anning

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New heights: For Mohamed Safwat.

Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat is one victory away from claiming a historic Challenger title following an impressive three-set success over third-seeded Jordan Thompson in Anning on Saturday.

The 27-year-old from Mansoura is looking to become the first Egyptian to win a Challenger trophy since Tamer El Sawy’s triumph in 1996, when he lifted the Bronx crown.

Safwat had entered the Anning Challenger carrying a five-match losing streak but turned things around with a series of battling wins this week.

“I wouldn’t say I was having a tough couple of weeks. I was always playing close matches, I’ve made a lot of changes and changes take time to settle in. I took the positives from them and just kept on working and looking forward,” Safwat told Sport360 of his tight losses over the past few weeks.

His 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Australian world No. 98 Thompson on Saturday was his third three-setter of the tournament.

“I think I handled the big moments of the match pretty solid,” Safwat said of his win over Thompson. “I managed to play them well and I think that was the key. The key moments were 4-3 in the third set and the beginning of the third set, I think those were the important ones.”

Safwat’s exploits in China will see him rise from 229 to a new career-high ranking on Monday. He will stand at around 176 if he loses the final and could hit 154 if he clinches the title. His previous career-high ranking is 187.

This is Safwat’s second appearance in a Challenger final and first since September 2016, when he finished as runner-up in Kenitra.

“It’s always a good feeling (to reach a final). I’m happy for the progress I made in my performance. It’s very good to be in the final of a big Challenger,” added Safwat.

“I’ve been playing okay so far. Tomorrow it’s another challenge and I’ll see how things will go, I’ll try to find a way for tomorrow and I hope I can manage to go through.”

Standing in his way in Sunday’s final is Indian world No.260 Prajanesh Gunneswaran, who is also searching for a first Challenger trophy.

Safwat and Gunneswaran have never faced off before.

The Anning Challenger is a $150,000 tournament and should Safwat win, he would pocket $21,600 in prize money, which would be the biggest pay day of his professional career.

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Maria Sharapova crashes out in first round of Stuttgart Open

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Sharapova crashed out at the same tournament where she returned from suspension last year.

Maria Sharapova crashed out in the opening round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix on Tuesday as French sixth seed Caroline Garcia staged a fightback to win 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.

“This was not the result that I wanted, but I can take a lot out of this match,” Sharapova said. “I’ve not competed for a few weeks, but I played pretty solid and did all of the right things.

“I served well in the first set but had a few doubles at the wrong time. Physically, I felt quite strong.”

The five-time Grand Slam champion, who turned 31 last week, looked to be in control as she made just two unforced errors in winning the opening set.

But Garcia, who had never beaten the Russian in four previous meetings – they last played in Madrid three years ago – rallied in the second set as she came from 4-2 down and and levelled the contest in a tie-break.

The 41st-ranked Sharapova returned to tennis in Stuttgart exactly a year ago after finishing a 15-month doping ban for meldonium and reached the semi-finals.

She claimed an early break in the third set, but lost it in the third game as Garcia tightened the screw on the crowd favourite.

Sharapova was broken to trail 4-5 and put her opponent under momentary pressure at 0-30 as Garcia tried to serve out the win.

But the world number seven succeeded on her second match point as Sharapova struck a return wide to exit after two and three-quarter hours of battle on the indoor clay court.

Sharapova said her game might have been compromised by weeks of forearm injury recovery after last playing in Indian Wells six weeks ago.

“Overall I didn’t react as well as I could against a server like her, she got lot of free points,” Sharapova said.

“I didn’t get enough balls back. We were both playing fast, and aggressive.

“I need to be smarter in the winning position.”

Garcia will next take on Ukrainian qualifier Marta Kostyuk who scored a 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Antonia Lottner.

The youngster, who doesn’t turn 16 until just before the start of Wimbledon, was joined in round two by Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-2.

Kostyuk made a breakthrough with a surprise third-round showing at the Australian Open as a qualifier, finally losing to compatriot Elina Svitolina.

World number 158 Kostyuk has since claimed a second-tier title in Burnie, Australia and reached a final in Zhuhai, China in March.

Her defeat of Lottner, ranked 155th, took just under 90 minutes, with the teenager breaking four times while losing serve only once.

Pliskova, who has been on site for a week training, is playing Stuttgart for the third consecutive year, after losing to eventual champion Laura Siegemund in the 2017 quarter-finals.

“I felt the best today and for sure it was not her best match but that was not much to do with me,” Pliskova said.

“The serve was good and I got a lot of free points, my shots were working – there was no problem from my side today.”

The Czech dominated Bertens, with the winner firing six aces and breaking four times.

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