Shanghai: Stefanos Tsitsipas produced his best tennis in the tournament so far as he battled past defending champion Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the semi-finals at Shanghai Masters on Friday.
Except for his first service game, Tsitsipas was impeccable throughout the match and put Djokovic under intense pressure. While the world number one managed to hold on to the one break he had managed right at the start to take the first set, Tsitsipas stepped up and went all-out attack in the next two sets to down Djokovic.
This is the second time in his career that Tsitsipas has defeated Djokovic. He beat the Serb last year in Toronto for his first big win.
Tsitsipas went through a lull after the claycourt season but the past two weeks has seen a resurgence of the Greek and on Friday against the best in the world, Tsitsipas put up a stunning display for a deserved one.
"I played really well. I felt in the zone in the second and third. I was confident that I could match him from the baseline. My serve worked really well today. Really happy with the win.
"Breaking him at 6-5 and not going to the tiebreak in the second set was a boost. That was very crucial for my psychology. Coming into the third, I knew I would have my chances and I had it," Tsitsipas said after the match.
🇬🇷 SUPER STEFANOS 🇬🇷@StefTsitsipas defeats Novak Djokovic for the second time in three attempts & gets his first win over a current World No. 1 to make the #RolexShMasters semi-finals 👏 🎥: @TennisTV | @SH_RolexMasters pic.twitter.com/Aq7ZaBm3te — ATP Tour (@atptour) October 11, 2019
Tsitsipas has now defeated Roger Federer (Australian Open), Rafael Nadal (Madrid Open) and Djokovic in the same season.
"I did dream of that (beating them all), not in the same season though but it's happened, it's so cool," Tsitsipas exclaimed.
With the win, Tsitsipas also secured his qualification to the season-ending ATP Finals in London. Upon being told the same by the interview, Tsitsipas was elated and admitted that he had no idea of the qualification.
"No way, really? I really had no idea, it is secure, seriously? YES! I wasn't looking at the rankings and but I am so happy to have qualified for the ATP Finals."
He's taken out all of the top three in 2019 💪 Will @StefTsitsipas do the same at the #NittoATPFinals? — ATP Tour (@atptour) October 11, 2019
The match was extremely close and the numbers from both the men on the court hardly separate them - a testiment to the quality the two brought out there in Shanghai.
Tsitsipas hit 11 aces in comparison to eight from Djokovic. What worked in Tsitsipas' favour today was the points he won on his first serve, which was on fire today.
While Djokovic's first serve percentage was better two better than Tsitsipas at 74 per cent, the Greek won 83 per cent of those first serve points while Djokovic could manage 70.
Tsitsipas and Djokovic put up a show for the crowd in Shanghai as they traded blows-for-blows for the entirety of the match. Tsitsipas' down-the-line backhand worked wonders for him even though Djokovic used every inch of his defensive capabilities to put as many balls back as possible.
In the last two sets, both Tsitsipas and Djokovic has to find outrageous shots to win points and it took all for the Greek to get the big win.
Serving for the set, Tsitsipas brought up three match points but Djokovic managed to save two. At his third match point, Tsitsipas served and hit two brilliant forehands close to the line on either side of the court to get a chance of an overhead smash. He executed the smash to perfect and won the match.
Tsitsipas and Djokovic had a nice exchange at the net after which, Tsitsipas could not stop smiling.
Djokovic admitted after the match that Tsitsipas was the better player and deserved the win. The world No.1 said he wasn't happy with the way he played in the second and third sets.
"He deserved the victory, he was the better player," said the 32-year-old Serbian, who had looked imperious up until now.
"Second and third set I started off very well, but then I wasn't sharp. I lacked that little bit of dynamic movement and acceleration in my shots.
"I didn't have any breakpoints for two sets. I mean, he did serve well, credit to him, but just wasn't pleased with the way I played."
Asked if the seventh-ranked Tsitsipas has the potential to be number one, Djokovic replied: "He definitely has, yes."
He will face the in-form Daniil Medvedev in the semi-final, who earlier beat Fabio Fognini 6-3, 7-6 (4).
(With AFP inputs)