Stefanos Tsitsipas fought back from match point down to beat Andrey Rublev 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (6) at the ATP Finals on Tuesday and keep his title defence alive.
Tsitsipas’ win also helped Dominic Thiem secure a place in the semi-final while ending Rublev’s chances of progressing to the knockouts on his maiden attempt.
Thiem had defeated Rafael Nadal 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) in a thriller earlier on Tuesday and now has two wins from two matches. Which means the last round-robin match between Tsitsipas and Nadal will essentially decide who claims the second semi-final spot from Group London 2020.
“It was an unbelievable match from both sides. We produced some incredible tennis,” Tsitsipas said in an on-court interview.
“The relief at the very end of putting all that effort and all that fight on the court paid off.
“I am very happy that I showed determination and a willingness to not give up when he had match point. It came easier when he was up 6/5, but then I produced some really good tennis and that helped me take the win.”
Rublev, who had lost his opening match to Nadal, fought back bravely after losing the first set in 19 minutes. He broke the Greek’s serve in the 10th game to claim the second set. The Russian, who has a Tour-leading five titles this season, then earned a match point at 6-5 in the tie-break on his serve.
But the pressure seemed to get to the 24-year-old as he served a double fault. Tsitsipas pounced on the opportunity, winning the next two points to win the match. He avoided becoming the first defending champion since David Nalbandian in 2006 to lose the first two matches.
The 22-year-old will take on Nadal on Thursday to fight for his place in the semi-finals.
“[It’s an] opportunity for me to fight even harder and give my very best out on the court,” Tsitsipas said of his clash against Nadal.
“I know it will require a lot of physical effort, and I’m going to have to go through a lot of pain and suffering, so it is going to be difficult match. I’m expecting a fight from my side.”
Nadal is the only player Tsitsipas lost to during his 2019 title run.