Stefanos Tsitsipas – Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-7 (11), 7-6 (1)
Group match, Nitto ATP Finals 2022
My 1990s addicted heart skipped a beat: Sitting in Stefanos Tsitsipas´ corner was a retired English speaking serve and volley specialist of Greek descent, who used to serve people off the court in the 1990s. It´s good to see Mark Philippoussis on the tour again, life in tennis retirement has not always been easy for him.
Tsitsipas came out with a clear plan: Serve. And. Volley. With the serves pulling Medvedev wide, Tsitsipas took the first set quickly. He also threw in a lot of drop shots, and continued doing so even when they did not always pay off.
You see, Medvedev is a better player than Tsitsipas from the baseline. Even though they both held serve throughout the second set, Medvedev was game by game starting to dictate. He was going after the Tsitsipas backhand, even when he has plenty of space to work with elsewhere on Tsitsipas´ side. Still, the Greek reached match point three times in the tiebreak, but Medvedev saved them all, and did that thing that spells trouble for the opponent: Asking for audience love by raising both hands in the air. Tsitsipas finally blinked at 11-12 in the second set tiebreak.
Medvedev broke for 4-3 in the third set. Tsitsipas had break points in the next game, but Medvedev held. The match seemed lost for Tsitsipas.
I watched this match with Swedish audio, and the commentator made and interesting point: Tsitsipas´ backhand is the thing that keeps him from winning slams. Tsitsipas tries to avoid hitting that stroke as much as possible, according to the Swede whose name I did not catch. I have never thought of that before, but maybe he is right. I like the simplicity of Tsitsipas´ game, including his backhand. It is not as baroque as Gasquet´s, and not as booming as Wawrinka´s, but mostly works fine. A weakness? I don´t know.
As for his adventures to the net, Tsitsipas was brave to keep pushing at all times. At one point the Swedish commentator screamed in agony over a missed Tsitsipas volley, claiming that everybody from Sampras to Edberg to Rafter to … well, just about anybody wielding a racket in the 1990s would have made that volley. (Trigger warning: They also missed volleys.) Tsitsipas won 30 of 37 points at the net.
When it all seemed over, Tsitsipas broke back to 5-5, and the match went to a tiebreak, where the Greek went up 6-0. And it was time for another vintage Medvedev gesture, the raised shoulders and wide stare.
As for 1990s serve and volley specialists of Greek descent go, it is time somebody lures Pete Sampras out of his Californian mansion(s) and onto the ATP tour again. How can he not be bored out of his mind? His kids are adults now. And with an autobiography called A champion´s mind, does he not feel the need to share that mind with a player? Imagine Taylor Fritz or Felix Auger-Aliassime with Sampras in their corner, tapping in to all that knowledge.
That would be something.
(Why is this Norwegian guy writing in English? At a party this fall, a friend and fanatical tennisbloggen.net fan suggested I should write in English in order to conquer the world or something like that. (Memories are slightly fuzzy.) I have not written English texts of any substance or length since the Clinton presidency, but will write in English for the rest of 2022 just for the fun of it and see if my numbers go through the roof. Please excuse my rusty grammar and spelling. If I run out of steam and/or receive loads of online fury from Norwegian language activists, I will switch to Norwegian and claim the blog was hijacked by forces outside my control.)