Stefanos Tsitsipas traded a great night on return with a modest night on serve to advance to the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The Greek conceded three service breaks to World No. 42 Bernabe Zapata Miralles but remained in charge throughout thanks to seven service breaks of his own in a 6-3, 6-1 victory in a match that ended at 12.35am.
“It was definitely tricky; he came out pretty strong in some of my service games… it’s never easy playing against Spaniards who know the surface very well,” Tsitsipas said. “It seemed kind of chaotic in the beginning but then I gave myself time to think and construct my points.”
The two-time Monte-Carlo champion dominated his opponent’s serve, restricting Zapata Miralles to a first-serve winning percentage of 38 per cent. Tsitsipas, whose victory was highlighted by a series of down-the-line backhand winners, has reached the quarter-finals or better of his past 10 clay-court events. He will next meet Germany lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff.
Describing the satisfaction of nailing down-the-line backhand winners, Tsitsipas said, “It’s like hitting a home run with a baseball bat. I’m happy with how I was able to [direct] the ball. There were a few times when the ball came in deep and you’d expect a cross-court, but I was able to [redirect it down the line]. It’s something I have been working on.”
Attacking German Struff continued his hot clay-court, charging into his second consecutive ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final after a tight 7-6(7), 6-7(7), 6-3 win over Argentine Pedro Cachin.
After rallying from 1-4 in the second set to force a tie-break, Struff missed the opportunity to close out the match in straight sets when he held match point at 6/7 in the ‘breaker. But he carried the momentum of his comeback into the third set to twice break Cachin to close out the match in two hours and 28 minutes.
“It’s amazing to be back in the quarters,” Struff said. “I told myself to remain calm [after failing to close out the match] because I felt I was playing good at the end of the second set and that the momentum was on my side.
“It was a battle today and the match was decided by small margins.”
Although both players won 108 points, Struff dictated play, clubbing 48 winners to Cachin’s 22 and winning 37 of 59 net approaches.
Struff lost to Aslan Karatsev in qualifying but came into the main draw as a lucky loser. He has surged 24 places this week to No. 41 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. Should he reach the semi-finals he is projected to be within a couple of spots of his career-high mark of No. 29.