Revenge is not the only thing Tsitsipas has on his mind in Shanghai this week – he is also trying to boost his chances of securing a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time in his career. With five players qualified and three places remaining open, Tsitsipas is next in line to qualify and has a lead of almost 1,000 points on the player in seventh place, Roberto Bautista Agut. But with Bautista Agut, Alexander Zverev, David Goffin, Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini all into the third round in Shanghai, it would be wise not to leave anything to chance.
An Australian Open semifinalist at the start of the year and runner-up at the Madrid Masters in May, Tsitsipas won the second and third titles of his career in Marseille and Estoril in the first half of the year, but he went through a dry spell in the past few months – before last week, he had lost in the first round of five of his last six tournaments, including Wimbledon, the US Open and the aforesaid Canada Masters defeat, the sole exception being the 500-level Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
Last week did herald a turnaround for Tsitsipas, however. After having retired in Zhuhai with illness, he looked in fine fettle at the China Open after a few days’ recovery, battling through three-set clashes with Dusan Lajovic and defending champion Nikoloz Basilashvili before beating John Isner and Zverev to reach his fourth final of the year. He was denied a first 500-level title by Dominic Thiem, who came back from a set down to beat him in the final, but it was still an excellent week for the Greek and he has already scored an impressive win in Shanghai: After losing his first two matches against Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets, Tsitsipas found some solutions on Wednesday to win 7-6(3), 7-6(3).
‘I knew it’s going to be tough, and it was very tough,’ Tsitsipas said afterwards. ‘I think, mostly, the concentration that I have put and the work that I have put into that match, I still felt like I had to put a lot in order to get that outcome at the end.’
Hubert Hurkacz now stands between Tsitsipas and a second Masters 1000 Series quarterfinal of the season.
It’s been a breakthrough season for 22-year-old Hurkacz, the brightest hope in Polish men’s tennis since Jerzy Janowicz. Hurkacz broke into the top 100 last year after winning a couple of Challengers, but after starting 2019 at world no. 86, he’s already up to a career-high world no. 34 this week.
Hurkacz has mainly accomplished that rise in the rankings on the ATP Tour, too, although he did win the Canberra Challenger at the start of the year and was a semifinalist in Poznan in June (a pretty decent way to fill in the time after having had the misfortune of drawing Novak Djokovic in the first round of the French Open). Back-to-back quarterfinals in Dubai, where he beat Kei Nishikori, and at the Indian Wells Masters (where he beat Nishikori again) were the results that drew most people’s attention to him, and he went on to break into the top 50 after making the last 16 at the Madrid Masters.
Hurkacz went on to make the third round of Wimbledon, the last 16 at the Canada Masters (beating Tsitsipas on the way) and to win his maiden ATP Tour title at the Winston-Salem Open, beating Denis Shapovalov and Benoit Paire in the semis and final.
Hurkacz lost his next three matches after Winston-Salem, but by no means to bad opponents, and he has already snapped that losing streak in Shanghai, beating Chinese wildcard Zhang Zhizhen and then ninth seed Gael Monfils, 6-2, 7-6(1), to make the last 16 of a Masters 1000 Series event for the fourth time in 2019.
This will be the third meeting between Tsitsipas and Hurkacz, and all three have taken place this year on hard courts: Indoor in Marseille, and outside in Dubai and Montreal. Tsitsipas won the first two before Hurkacz beat him at the Canada Masters, and although fast courts in Shanghai in theory favour the big-serving Pole and his aggressive game, it might actually be easy to rush him in these conditions and take the time away that he needs to set up his big shots. Tsitsipas is in excellent form at the moment after his Beijing run and I like him to make his way into the Shanghai quarterfinals – but probably not without having to go to three sets, and play at least one tie-break, against Hurkacz first.
Tsitsipas vs Hurkacz Shanghai Masters tennis is live from Shanghai on Thursday at 3.30pm local/8.30am BST
Tsitsipas vs Hurkacz tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Tsitsipas out to avenge Montreal defeat in Shanghai
World no. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas must avoid a second straight defeat to Hubert Hurkacz I fhe is to reach the…
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