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Tsitsipas vs Kukushkin tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Tsitsipas claim second ATP title at Marseille’s Open 13?

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 23 Feb 2019
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas faces Mikhail Kukushkin in the final of the Open 13 Provence on Sunday
  • Tsitsipas vs Kukushkin is live from Marseille on Sunday at 2pm local/1pm GMT
Stefanos Tsitsipas (KOEN VAN WEEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Stefanos Tsitsipas goes for his second ATP Tour title as he takes on Mikhail Kukushkin in the final of the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

Can Australian Open semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas continue his bright start to 2019 with the second ATP Tour title of his career in Marseille? Mikhail Kukushkin stands between him and the trophy at the Open 13 Provence.

Tsitsipas has struggled in the aftermath of a crushing Australian Open defeat to Nadal (PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
If expectations were high for Tsitsipas coming into the 2019 season, after he won Stockholm and reached the finals of the Barcelona Open and the Canada Masters in 2018, then the 20-year-old’s run to the Australian Open semifinals sent them rocketing all the way up to stratospheric. Tsitsipas, who suffered a quarterfinal defeat to Andreas Seppi in his first official ATP event of the season after joining Maria Sakkari to represent Greece at the Hopman Cup, put himself into contention for the informal title of ‘best of the next generation’ when he defeated Roger Federer in the round of 16 in Melbourne and backed up that upset with an impressive victory over Roberto Bautista Agut. But just as he had become the youngest man to make a Grand Slam semifinal since Novak Djokovic, Tsitsipas suffered a crushing 2-6, 4-6, 0-6 defeat to Rafael Nadal in that semifinal.

The aftershocks of that defeat to Nadal were still being felt by Tsitsipas in subsequent events, as both his results and his own comments made clear. He lost in straight sets to Gael Monfils in the Sofia Open quarterfinals, and to Damir Dzumhur in the first round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, after which he bitterly castigated himself for, basically, beating himself.

But Tsitsipas has surged back into form in Marseille this week, with a little help from the draw – he beat Hubert Hurkacz and Sergiy Stakhovsky to reach the semifinals without dropping a set. In the semifinals, facing a classy if somewhat out-of-form world no. 24 David Goffin, Tsitsipas had to work hard and play well and he did both. Surrendering an early break to Goffin, Tsitsipas doggedly got back on serve, only to be broken again almost immediately. Goffin served for the first set at 6-5, but Tsitsipas played his best game of the set to break back, and then took the early mini-break lead in the ensuing tie-break as he worked Goffin off the court with a smartly angled forehand and sent the backhand winner behind the befuddled Belgian. 

Tsitsipas never really looked back from there, dominating the rest of the tie-break and then ruling the second set as Goffin fell away to secure a 7-6(1), 6-2 victory.

‘I found rhythm in the worst possible moment,’ Tsitsipas said afterwards of how he found his way back into the first set. 

‘I found my rhythm and I found my game when he served at 6-5. I felt comfortable on the returns and the momentum was on my side.’

If having his back against the wall was what it took for Tsitsipas to swing freely on Saturday, that doesn’t necessarily bode well for his clash against Kukushkin, in which the world no. 12 will be the favourite against the unseeded Kazakh.

Mikhail Kukushkin (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
That’s not to say that Kukushkin should in any way be underestimated. The 31-year-old Russian-born Kukushkin comes into the Open 13 ranked world no. 50 and unseeded, but he has, like his higher-ranked opponent in Sunday’s final, reached the title match in Marseille without dropping a set, beating Denis Kudla, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov and finally wildcard Ugo Humbert to set up the clash with Tsitsipas.

This is the fourth ATP Tour final of Kukushkin’s career, which is not bad for a player whose career-high ranking was world no. 46 back in 2015. Champion in St Petersburg back in 2010 when he beat Mikhail Youzhny in the final, Kukushkin went on to finish runner-up to Richard Gasquet in the St Petersburg final in 2013 and to Viktor Troicki in the Apia International Sydney final in 2015, but he hasn’t made it to a title match on the ATP Tour since, although he won Challenger titles in Prostejov and Moscow in 2016, was an ATP semifinalist in Memphis and made Challenger finals in Astana and Irving in 2017 and in 2018, won the Irving Challenger and reached ATP semifinals at the Eastbourne 250 and the 500 in Vienna, where he beat Grigor Dimitrov among others. 

A very dangerous player on indoor hard courts as this brief run-down of his results will have demonstrated, Kukushkin lost in the first round of the Australian Open – the only match he played in January – and hadn’t won back-to-back ATP Tour matches in 2019 before this week, but he has looked very good in Marseille.

‘[Mikhail] is also in good form, he has been playing good tennis,’ Tsitsipas said. ‘He seems like he is doing well, so I am going to have to deal with it. It is not going to be easy, I can promise that.’

These two have played once before, almost exactly a year ago in Dubai when Tsitsipas won in three tight sets. Given the way both played on Saturday and the way that Kukushkin served – he didn’t lose a point on serve in the first set against Humbert, although the latter was hardly providing the greatest challenge on return – Tsitsipas is going to have to find his rhythm on return a lot faster than he did against Goffin if he wants to avoid going a set down or worse. The world no. 12 is in for a battle in this Marseille final and I’m not sure he’s going to win it. 

Tsitsipas vs Kukushkin Open 13 Provence tennis is live from Marseille from 2pm local/1pm GMT on Sunday

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Tsitsipas vs Kukushkin tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Tsitsipas claim second ATP title at Marseille’s Open 13?

Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Mikhail Kukushkin live streaming, preview and predictions for the Open 13 Provence final match on Sunday 24 February: Neither player has dropped a set in Marseille but Tsitsipas must be wary of unseeded Kazakh Kukushkin

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