Tsitsipas was last seen at the Zhuhai Championships last week retiring due to illness after splitting sets with Adrian Mannarino, but the third seed has already got off to a winning start the China Open, coming back from a set down (and an 0-2 deficit in the decider) against Dusan Lajovic to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The Greek star is making his debut in Beijing this week as he hopes to boost his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. Tsitsipas currently sits in sixth place with four players qualified, and leads the player currently in eight place (Matteo Berrettini) by very nearly 1,000 points, so he is in an excellent position, but there’s no denying that Tsitsipas could use a psychological boost even if not particularly a numbers one.
After a great first six months of 2019 saw him upset Roger Federer on the way to the semifinals of the Australian Open, win titles in Marseille and Estoril and finish runner-up at the 500-level Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the Madrid Masters, where he claimed back-to-back wins over Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal, Tsitsipas’s level has dropped off quite dramatically. Having gone 32-12 from the start of the season up until the French Open, Tsitsipas is 6-8 since losing 6-8 in the fifth set to Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round of Roland Garros, losing his opening match at six of the last eight tournaments he has played including Wimbledon (to Thomas Fabbiano), the US Open (to Andrey Rublev) and last week’s Zhuhai retirement.
Tsitsipas’s win over Lajovic in the first round in Beijing snapped a five-match losing streak for the Greek player in ATP Tour matches (a category which does not include Laver Cup, where he won a singles match but lost both of the doubles matches in which he was involved) – now he seeks to win back-to-back matches for the first time since having made the semifinals of the Winston-Salem Open in August.
Nikoloz Basilashvili should not be an easy out. The 27-year-old from Georgia became the lowest-ranked player ever to win the China Open in 2018 when he, then ranked world no. 34 (a testament to the high-quality field the 500-level event routinely attracts, by the way), beat Jack Sock, Fernando Verdasco, Malek Jaziri, Kyle Edmund and then-world no. 4 Juan Martin del Potro to claim the title.
It was the second title of Basilashvili’s season and career, and the second to come at 500-level, the Georgian having previously won the Hamburg Open in July, and saw him finish a career-best season at world no. 21. Basilashvili would go on to be ranked a career-high world no. 20 in January after making the third round of the Australian Open but his season looked to be quite an underwhelming one until Hamburg in July, when he surprisingly defended his title, beating Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev on the way.
Basilashvili has won back-to-back matches at the Canada Masters and at the US Open, where he went out in the third round to the unfancied Dominik Koepfer, but ended up retiring in the third set against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Metz last week due to a right shoulder injury (he is reportedly planning to have surgery on that arm at the end of the season, although it seems mad to continue playing with a known injury). Nevertheless, he got his China Open title defense off to a winning start with a 6-4, 7-6(3) win over Guido Pella.
This will be the second meeting between Tsitsipas and Basilashvili after they played at the Australian Open in January. Tsitsipas won that match in four fairly tight sets, and it will be interesting to see if the Greek can reproduce that result with so much more expectation on him. Basilashvili isn’t having a particularly exciting season (and that injury is obviously an issue), but defending a title seemed to bring out the best of him in Hamburg – will it be the same in Beijing?
Tsitsipas vs Basilashvili China Open tennis is live from Beijing at 4.30pm local/8.30am BST
Tsitsipas vs Basilashvili tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Tsitsipas tries to oust defending champion in Beijing
Stefanos Tsitsipas looks for back-to-back wins for the first time since August as he takes on Nikoloz Basilashvili, a surprise…
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