Stefanos Tsitsipas flew out of the gate in a winner-takes-all Red Group finale agains Andrey Rublev on Friday at the Nitto ATP Finals. But after a flawless opening set, the Greek lost his way as Rublev roared into the Turin semi-finals with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.
While Tsitsipas was quick to credit his opponent — “Things were coming off the racquet pretty good from his side,” he said of Rublev — the second seed also rued his missed opportunity in a match he felt was his for the taking.
“It’s a shame,” he said in his post-match press conference. “I feel like the better player. I felt like I could do more with the ball today. I felt like I could just be much more creative. I don’t even have to say that. I think it’s quite obvious.
“But, yeah, he prevailed with the few tools that he has. He was able to really take advantage of them and win today.”
While Rublev showed his frustration at the start of the second set, it was the Greek who was left flustered late, his ground game deserting him in the final set. His unraveling was completed by consecutive double faults which handed Rublev a double-break lead for 5-2 in the decider.
Due to Rublev’s positioning close to the baseline, Tsitsipas was unable to attack the net — a strategy he employed 45 times in his win against Daniil Medvedev.
“When you have an opponent standing so close to the baseline, he gives you less time to come to the front of the net,” he explained. “I didn’t really do it. I think I did it twice today.
“I wouldn’t say it would have perhaps changed the game, but I could have used it a bit more. He hits the ball slightly more powerful than my previous opponent and has better passing shots, I would say. That’s the reason why I chose to play the game I played today.”
Tsitsipas finalises his ATP Tour season with a 61-24 record and will finish the year with the most wins on Tour. He currently sits third in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, though Capsper Ruud could pass him by reaching the final.
Entering Turin, the Greek had an opportunity to pass Carlos Alcaraz for the year-end No. 1 honour in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, but his hopes were dashed by an opening defeat to Novak Djokovic.
Still, Tsitsipas is in position to accomplish his preseason goal of finishing the season in the Top 3.
“That was my goal from the beginning of the year, which I was still kind of not fully convinced that I can do it because of my [elbow] injury at the end of the previous year,” Tsitsipas said. “But after having a few good results in the beginning of the year, I thought maybe I can actually do it this year and break into the Top 3 again.”
As for 2023, the Greek has a clear priority for his offseason training: “My goal for the pre-season is going to be perhaps a bit more consistent with my returns, because I think if I’m able to improve on that aspect of my game, I can do more damage.”