Stefanos Tsitsipas is one match-win away from making his top-10 debut and the 20-year-old admits he is thinking about that potential milestone “every day”.
Tsitsipas extended his winning streak to seven consecutive matches on Thursday with a hard-earned 7-6(4), 6-7(1), 6-1 success against Hubert Hurkacz in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarter-finals.
The young Greek arrived late to Dubai after winning the Marseille title last Sunday but has managed to keep up his form to set up a semi-final showdown with Gael Monfils, who is on a winning streak of his own, having lifted the trophy in Rotterdam earlier this month, before making the last-four in the Emirates, making it eight victories in a row for the Frenchman.
“What it means? I’m thinking about it almost every day,” Tsitsipas said with a smile about the prospect of breaking the top-10 for the first time.
“I want it badly. I want it to happen very much. I know I’ll have to win a couple of crucial matches to get there. The point difference is pretty big. I’m going to have to dominate more.
“It’s a good motivation because I’m so close, to get it as early as possible. Me personally, I feel like I have the game to be there already, maybe even in the future, but as soon as possible. It’s better if it happens as soon as possible.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas on his social media fast:
“I was just sick & tired of all those messages, all those people talking about me. All the notifications, like, I felt my brain blocked. I felt like I couldn’t process all of that information coming to me”pic.twitter.com/Iz7Wya94TY
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) February 26, 2019
Before the start of this season, Tsitsipas told Sport360 during his training block in Dubai he had four main goals for 2019: Reaching a Grand Slam semi-final, cracking the top-10, winning a Masters 1000 title and qualifying for the year-end ATP Finals in London.
He already crossed the first goal off of his bucket list when he reached the semis at the Australian Open last month and is now ever so close to checking the second item on that list.
Having such lofty goals can sometimes apply added pressure to a player but Tsitsipas seems to thrive on ambition and has amassed an impressive 14-4 win-loss record just eight weeks into the new year.
“I had a great preseason in Dubai this year. I was confident I can do well because I worked a lot. I was not sure if my rivals or the rest of the players were working that hard on court every single day. I felt like I was doing a great job,” explained Tsitsipas.
“It was part of my goals, to practice so hard and do fitness every day, hours and hours on the court, loading. That actually helped me with my confidence, knowing that I worked hard. I’m starting the new season dynamic.”
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) December 22, 2018
Tsitsipas is 1-1 head-to-head against Monfils, and lost their most recent meeting in the Sofia quarter-finals earlier this month.
Monfils will be contesting his third consecutive semi-final in 2019 and is 12-2 win-loss this season.
“I think it’s a different match now. We’re not playing in altitude with heavy balls. It’s completely different. The court is pretty slow,” Tsitsipas said of his upcoming semi-final against Monfils.
“We’re both serving really well. We have similar game style. I guess I’m a bit more aggressive than him, but he’s much faster. I’m going to have to deal with all of that, be patient, play with passion as well, just wait for the opportunities to break him.
“I think I’m going to have to serve well. Is it tomorrow? Yeah, tomorrow. I think I’m going to have to serve well to win that match. If I don’t serve well, I’ll have trouble.”
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) February 27, 2019
Roger Federer plans on talking to Novak Djokovic ahead of next month’s players’ meeting in Indian Wells, where the future of ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode is set to be decided upon.
Kermode’s contract is up at the end of this current 2019 season and a faction of the players, believed to be spearheaded by ATP Player Council president Novak Djokovic, led a campaign in Melbourne against the renewal of the Brit’s agreement.
Vasek Pospisil, who represents those ranked 51-100 in the council, sent an email to the players last month calling for change at the helm, which led to Stan Wawrinka responding in defence of Kermode.
It is believed that players voted on the matter at the Australian Open but it was agreed that the final vote and decision on Kermode’s fate would be made at Indian Wells next month.
Federer had said in Melbourne that he needed to talk to Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and other players to know more about the situation and he revealed in Dubai on Wednesday, following his 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Fernando Verdasco in the second round, that he hopes to speak to Djokovic before the upcoming meeting.
“I think important was to see how the Davis Cup was going to go a little bit maybe as well, to be quite honest. I did speak to Rafa during the tournament. Novak I didn’t see. I guess that was my fault because I lost earlier. That robbed me of spending more time there,” said Federer, who lost in the Australian Open fourth round to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I think to some extent also I have to take a decision if I want to be involved in any way. Politically I’m not involved. I’m not on the council. But I’m always happy to listen and all that stuff.
“At some point I also have to be careful with the time, Novak’s time as a council president. I got to play it the right way. I think my next conversation needs to be with him.
“I had some meetings also with council members at the Australian Open. It’s been quiet recently. It’s always like that. It’s always busy, busy, just before the Australian Open. After that everybody focuses on tennis. After that the tour moves on, you don’t see each other anymore. Things flatten out. Like you said, things are going to come back to the surface a little bit in Indian Wells. Good or bad, it’s going to happen.”
— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) January 11, 2019
Nadal told the press in Melbourne that he was surprised that he was never approached by members of the council to discuss this, but added that he believes Kermode should continue.
“Being honest, I am not in the council anymore, and at the same time, nobody from the council side came to me and asked me my opinion,” the Spaniard said.
On Wednesday in Dubai following his 6-3, 6-2 win over Marcos Baghdatis, Gael Monfils echoed Nadal’s sentiments, saying he was taken by surprise when the topic was brought up in Australia last month.
“It’s a bit tough. Not so much, I mean, with not so much heads up. Honestly I think it’s more us to ask what’s going on, then it’s not the other way around,” Monfils said when asked if he is clued in on the whole debate ahead of the vote at Indian Wells.
“For players like me who likes to know but don’t really care, it’s tough because we have this meeting and, boom, it’s already done. We don’t have so much say to what happen.”
The Frenchman added: “Honestly, in Australia what happened, I have no clue about that. You are just like come up, boom, Chris, not Chris. Okay, what happened? Why?
“Most of the time when we have the meeting, it seems like he’s doing a great job. Apparently some say, No, he’s not doing a great job. Okay, why? They tell you in two minutes. Thank you, see you in Indian Wells.
“No, is not that easy to follow, honestly. I think they might improve a little bit the communication. I think some guys travelling a bit more, should try to have some chat with us because in Australia we said we’re not super happy because we’re not really informed.”
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 14, 2019
Monfils’s second round win over Baghdatis in Dubai was his seventh victory in a row after picking up the title in Rotterdam earlier this month.
He takes on Ricardas Berankis in Thursday’s quarter-finals after the Lithuanian followed up his upset of No. 8 seed Daniil Medvedev with success over Denis Kudla in the second round on Wednesday.
Federer’s triumph over Verdasco was his 50th match win in Dubai, where he is hoping to capture a record-extending eighth title in the Emirates this week.
The Swiss world No. 7 has dropped a set in each of his opening two matches so far but is generally pleased to reach an 11th Dubai quarter-final. He plays Hungarian Marton Fucsovics on Thursday.
“They were very different matches, haven’t they been? A lot of wind and topspin against Kohlschreiber. Today against a lefty, no wind, perfect conditions in some way. Fernando can take the racquet out of your hand with his serve and forehand at times. At the same time he can also beat himself. That is what he did that in the first set. Started to play better in the second. And in the third it was even,” said Federer of his time on court so far this week.
“From that standpoint I’m just happy I made it through. The game is getting better. Naturally it was always going to feel a little bit better today with no wind.
“We’ll see what the conditions are going to be like tomorrow. I think probably something similar to today. More of a straightforward playing in Fucsovics tomorrow. I think I can maybe assess better what’s going on tomorrow.”
Marcos Baghdatis hailed Mohamed Safwat’s fighting spirit after the Cypriot claimed a hard-earned 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory to reach the Dubai second round on Tuesday.
In a battle of two wildcards, Baghdatis fought back from 0-40 down to hold in his first service game of the final set and he got the break he needed at 4-all to edge past the inspired Egyptian on a windy day on Court 1.
“It was definitely maybe the most important game of the match. I knew that I couldn’t let him get away with a break, and with these conditions, it’s very tough to play,” Baghdatis told Sport360 of that big service hold early in the third.
“It was very tough out there. I don’t know what to say. The match could have gone either way. The conditions helped him a lot with his game and I couldn’t hit the ball very clean. But I managed to stay focused and calm and played pretty well in the important points of the match.”
Baghdatis next takes on Gael Monfils, who ousted third-seeded Marin Cilic on Tuesday, and will be looking to emulate his performance from 2016, where he reached the final in Dubai.
“I was struggling with my serve, but tomorrow is another day. I’m happy with the win. I think he fought very well, a great competitor and I wish him luck for the future,” the 33-year-old Cypriot said of Safwat.
“I hope tomorrow’s conditions will be a bit better so we can enjoy a bit better tennis and better feeling on the court, and I’m pretty confident I can do well.”
Safwat played a great first set but took his foot off the gas pedal in the second, falling behind a double-break. With Baghdatis serving for the second set, Safwat struck back and got one of the breaks to narrow the gap. The ex-world No. 8 served out the set on his second chance though to force a decider en route to victory.
Baghdatis had played Safwat in a Davis Cup tie in Limassol back in 2010, which was a match that helped a 19-year-old Safwat gain perspective and rise through the ranks. He is now Egypt’s No. 1 player and the second-highest ranked Arab man behind Tunisian Malek Jaziri.
“It’s good he learned something from that match,” Baghdatis said of his Davis Cup match against Safwat in 2010.
“Every match is for sure a lesson. I’m happy he sees it that way. He’s a great guy, he’s one of the guys whenever you see him, he says hello. So I wish him honestly the best of luck and plays even better and gets his ranking up because he deserves it.”
On his part, Safwat says he can walk away with positives from his brief visit to Dubai.
“Yeah, was a good match in general overall. I cannot say it was really bad match. I had some gaps in the middle like after the first set, I had some gaps. 4-All in the third was poor game from my side,” said the 28-year-old from Mansoura.
“If I look at the bigger picture, it’s just improving every week. Yeah, results will come eventually.”
The North African next heads to China to play some Challengers, which can require a bit of a mental adjustment after competing in a swanky ATP 500 tournament like Dubai.
“Back to reality,” Safwat said with a laugh. “Here, obviously I don’t play in such big events every week. But I try to take the experience. I try to push. I have my coach, my friends there. We try to support each other, push each other.
“Yes, it means the stadiums are not full in the Challengers. We’re trying to get the support from your team.”