Stefanos Tsitsipas saved two match points to complete a trilogy of recent wins against Grigor Dimitrov Wednesday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. But his third victory over the Bulgarian in as many tournaments, by way of a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(4) result, was by far the toughest of the trio.
“Incredible fight. I’m extremely happy I was able to overcome this obstacle,” Tsitsipas said post-match. “Grigor played really well, gave me a hard time on the court.
“Just so many emotions. The fact that I was able to process all of that and come back stronger in the third-set tie-break, it was such a great way to redeem myself after not being able to hold in that last game of the second set.”
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Tsitsipas served for what would have been his third consecutive straight-sets win in the rivalry but was broken at love as Dimitrov won four straight games and 16 of the set’s last 17 points to force a decider.
In the third, Dimitrov had a match point on return at 4-5 and 5-6. But Tsitsipas saved the first with a bold serve-and-volley play on second serve and the second with a big delivery to send it to a tie-break. After the Greek raced to a 5/0 lead, Dimitrov used a bunted backhand return winner to spark a comeback to 5/4, but Tsitsipas held his nerve on serve to advance to the last 16.
“It’s like playing in the Colosseum,” Tsitsipas said of the atmosphere on Grand Stand Arena. “There’s so much energy coming from the crowd. I think the people that came today to watch the match were so into it… It made for a great atmosphere and a great gladiator kind of environment on the court.”
At his best, the fourth seed used his forehand to open up the court and dictate patterns of play, frequently finishing points at net.
With his 28th victory of the year, Tsitsipas pulled level with 19-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz atop the season’s match-wins leaderboard. Tsitsipas has now won his past four matches against Dimitrov and five of their six career ATP Head2Head meetings.
A finalist at Roland Garros last year, Tsitsipas this week has moved ahead of Rafael Nadal into fourth place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings because the Spaniard drops the 1,000 points he earned by winning last year’s title.
In Rome semi-finalist in 2014, Dimitrov slipped to 15-10 on the season. But the Bulgarian remains on track to reach 30 match wins this season for the first time since 2017, when he finished the year at No. 3. Earlier this month Dimitrov returned to the Top 20 for the first time in almost 12 months.
Tsitsipas next faces Karen Khachanov, a 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 winner over 15th seed Pablo Carreno Busta earlier on Wednesday.