The budding rivalry between Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas continues to gather steam as the pair prepare to square off for a fourth time in five months.
The seventh-seeded Thiem won his first two meetings against the Greek teenager, in Doha and Indian Wells before Tsitsipas turned the tables on him and pulled off the upset in Barcelona on his way to a maiden ATP final.
On Wednesday, they take to the new Court 18 at Roland Garros for a highly-anticipated second round that will feature exciting one-handed backhands on both sides of the net. Tsitsipas, 19, is five years younger than Thiem, who is far more experienced at this level, having made the semi-finals at the French Open in 2016 and 2017.
The 39th-ranked Tsitsipas on the other hand claimed his first ever Grand Slam match win on Monday when he overcame Spaniard Carlos Taberner in four sets.
“It’s tough, it was my second time playing a best-of-five match. So it’s tough mentally to handle it the right away. It was a good first test for me,” Tsitsipas said of his opener in Paris and his lack of experience competing in the best-of-five format.
“First of all mentally it is tough when you lead and then you start thinking – although you shouldn’t think too much – but you start thinking ‘okay, I need to win one more, and one more’ and this way of thinking is tiring. And also physically, it is very tough.
“You try to give your 100 per cent but then you understand that if you give your 100 per cent on every point then you’ll be completely dead by the end of the third set, so you need to balance all those things together to keep a good level. So being physically prepared is very important to play these kind of matches.”
Thiem comes into Paris with a title victory under his belt, having lifted the trophy in Lyon last Saturday. He’s looking forward to another showdown with Tsitsipas.
“We played three times already this year. He’s one very good, upcoming player. Going to be top-10, for sure, in the future and playing already unbelievable. But, yeah, hope that I can have an advantage over best-of-five.”
Tsitsipas knows all too well what he’s up against but is keen to write a new chapter in this young rivalry.
“Believe me, he’s a tough player to face,” he said of Thiem.
“He can be very dangerous on this surface. I’ll try to play my game, be positive with my attitude, psychologically it will be very important to be balanced and believe that I can create an upset and do well against Dominic. I respect him a lot and I believe it’s going to be a tough match against him so I need to be prepared 100 per cent.”
He added: “In a way it is a rivalry yes. I’ve played Dominic a lot of times and it kind of feels like a rivalry. It’s exciting because I’ll play him plenty of times in the future so it’s good to start something like this early. It’s interesting in a way, for the fans and the players as well.”
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