Tsitsipas To Play Monfils In Dubai Semi-Finals

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: DDFTennis)

DUBAI, February 28, 2019 (Press Release)

Stefanos Tsitsipas recovered from a second set disappointment to defeat Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 6-7 6-1 and reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday.

He will next play recent Rotterdam champion Gael Monfils, who also struggled to overcome a gallant challenge but emerged from his battle against Ricardas Berankis with a 6-1 6-7 6-2 victory. Berankis was bidding to become the first qualifier to reach the semi-finals in the 27-year history of the tournament, although Malek Jaziri reached that stage in 2018 as a wild card.

Fifth seeded Tsitsipas produced an aggressive and energetic performance against a talented opponent who had dismissed world No. 6 Kei Nishikori in the previous round, and served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. But his opponent dug deep, broke serve and then took the tiebreak to level the match. Tsitsipas though rose to the challenge in the third and took that set with ease.

“Yeah, that was frustrating,” said Tsitsipas, who on Sunday won his second career title in Marseille. “But if I would think about it too much, it would cost me the match. I rebooted myself, came in refreshed. I said, I’m going to stay another two hours here, but it didn’t happen.”

After struggling in the first two sets, why was the third so one-sided?

“I might say that his serve dropped, first-serve percentages, giving me the opportunity and possibility to be more aggressive and start the rallies,” said Tsitsipas. “I was serving a bit better, maybe opening the court, making like less mistakes, being aggressive. When I broke him first time, I showed him that I’m still in the match. I guess that kind of mentally, he saw the dominance of his opponent. Yeah, that affected him probably. That’s how I felt.”

Monfils comfortably swept the first set, but faced much sterner opposition in the second. Berankis broke to lead 4-2 and came within two points of a 5-2 lead before Monfils broke back in the seventh game. Monfils then broke to lead 5-4 and got to within two points of victory as he served for the match. But then he lost four straight points, double-faulting on break point to bring the score to 5-5, and Berankis went on to take the tiebreak.

A more aggressive approach then gave Monfils the advantage in the deciding set, and after being broken to fall behind 2-1 he won the final five games of the match for the loss of just eight points.

“Second set, I don’t know, it was a little bit different. I mean, I had less on my shots. I felt a bit flatter. I think the energy dropped a little bit,” said Monfils. “He played a bit better. He was a bit more aggressive. I couldn’t really find my rhythm, as well. I felt he was a bit more pumped. It was tougher for me. I really had to really get upset and bring more energy for me, to move more my legs, to be a bit more aggressive on my shots, more aggressivity on every shot.”

Second seed Roger Federer beat Marton Fucsovics 7-6(6), 6-4 and sixth seed Borna Coric faces Nikoloz Basilashvili in the remaining quarter-final later on Thursday.

“We have enjoyed two excellent and entertaining quarter-finals and congratulate Stefanos Tsitsipas and Gael Monfils as they continue their recent good form,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “It is very difficult to predict who will be able to take the next step and reach Saturday’s final.”

Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “We have seen some wonderful performances this week, some of which have produced some interesting upsets. Tennis fans can look forward to an exciting final two days as the survivors from the early rounds battle for the title.”