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Tennis From Hamburg to Paris: Rublev and Tsitsipas Keep on Fighting and Keep on Winning

By Ricky Dimon

On Sunday they were contesting the Hamburg final. Forty-eight hours later on Tuesday afternoon they were on the court for round one of the French Open.

Such is the life of tennis players these days, when a hectic schedule that has been rearranged in the wake of a four-month stoppage from March through June due to the coronavirus pandemic. More specifically, that was the life of Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas over the past few days.

Following Rublev’s hard-fought 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Tsitsipas for the 500-point title in Hamburg, both players got right back in gear and battled to five-set victories at Roland-Garros. In fact, both of them even came from two sets to love down.

Rublev’s comeback was especially improbable. The Russian not only trailed two sets to love but also by 5-2 in the third. All but on the next flight out of Paris, he somehow found a way to recover both mentally and physically for a 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 victory after three hours and 17 minutes of play.

It was the mental struggle that was by far the toughest to overcome.

“My attitude was horrible,” Rublev admitted. “I was just so lucky. The attitude today was really horrible. If I want to improve and I want to compete on a good level, this is not acceptable. I need to change it.

“I was feeling completely tight. I choke (on) another level. Since the first point of the match till the last point of the match I was completely frozen. I couldn’t take one step; I could only hit. I was tight like I don’t know. Not many times I was tight like this.”

For Tsitsipas, the situation was also something he had rarely if ever experienced.

Saying afterward, “I don’t think I’ve ever played a match like this before,” the world No. 6 stormed back from a two-set deficit to defeat Jaume Munar 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in three hours and 12 minutes. It was no fault of Tsitsipas’ that he dropped the first two sets, as Munar played near-flawless tennis the entire way. Nor was it any fault of the underdog Spaniard’s that he failed to close out his upset bid. Tsitsipas simply raised his level when it mattered most following a relatively slow start.

Munar committed a mere 21 unforced errors while hitting 38 winners–good for a plus-17 ratio that is especially incredible for someone who did not even win the match. Tsitsipas finished with 54 winners and 49 errors.

“The emotions were not there at the beginning,” the 22-year-old Greek reflected. “It wasn’t working out for me at all in the beginning; nothing was working. Everything was not responding. But I’m really proud of myself for the effort I put in and the amount of dedication.

“Playing a best-of-fiver can be very challenging. I’m very happy that I will walk away from Suzanne-Lenglen with a ‘W.’”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.