Tsitsipas Gave His Soul, Then Captured His First ATP Tour Clay Title In Estoril

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: Millennium Estoril Open)

ESTORIL, May 5, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

Sunday’s championship match at the Millennium Estoril Open between top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and lucky loser Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay had a throwback feel to it in this ATP 250 event in Estoril, Portugal. Throughout much of the one hour and 43 minute final, both players put on a display of great skills, which included the use of excellent footwork on the Estádio Millennium red clay and featured an arsenal of strong, one-fisted backhand returns.

On a beautiful, sunny afternoon in this resort town on the Portuguese Riviera, the 20-year-old #NextGen ATP star Tsitsipas became just the second top seed in the tournament’s five-year history to win the singles championship. A day after his Greek compatriot Maria Sakkari won her first WTA title in Rabat, Morocco, Tsitsipas beat Cuevas, 6-3, 7-6 (4), for his third ATP Tour title overall – all coming within the past eight months – and first on clay. Also, it was the 23rd win of the season for Tsitsipas, second-most behind the 25 achieved by Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

I wanted to win this 250 since I watched (Roger) Federer win here in 2008,” said Tsitsipas, who celebrated his title win by spraying a bottle of Champagne while confetti rained down over the court. “Nobody knows … but Pablo is one of the players that I admire the most. Together with Federer.”

Cuevas, a six-time ATP Tour titlist who reached the main draw as a lucky loser after failing in the qualifying draw last weekend, had advanced all the way to his ninth tour-level final by winning four straight matches. He was the first lucky loser since Mario Cecchinato won the 2018 Budapest title to reach a tour-level final. Cuevas was seeking his first ATP Tour title since winning at São Paulo in 2017, but will have to wait a little longer.

Meanwhile, Tsitsipas was effective during his service games. He won 70 percent (40 of 57) of his first-serve points, which included four aces, and he faced only two break points (saving one of them). Tsitsipas broke Cuevas twice in four tries and outpointed him 81-71.

After easily winning the opening set, Tsitsipas fought off a set point to level the second set at 5-all, and later forced a tie break. Then, ahead 6-4 in the tie break, after Cuevas saved three match points that came after he was assessed a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, Tsitsipas chased after a beautifully placed drop shot by the 33-year-old Uruguayan. On the run as he came into the net, Tsitsipas hit a strong forehand return for a solid winner to close out the win. He immediately fell to the red dirt in celebration of his achievement.

You really have to fight hard and give your soul out on the court,” said Tsitsipas, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. He lost his only other clay final last year at Barcelona against Rafael Nadal. “This title means a lot to me. It’s on clay, it’s one of my preferred surfaces. It’s nice to have completed the clay-hard court title (sweep) that I’ve been fighting for. Next is grass, or maybe even more clay-court titles this year, that would be wonderful.”

By winning Estoril, Tsitsipas will receive first-prize money of €90,390, plus 250 ATP Rankings points. Cuevas will earn €48,870 and 150 ATP Rankings points. Additionally, Tsitsipas will move up one spot to No. 9 in the ATP Rankings and Cuevas will improve 16 places to No. 51.

Now, it’s on to Madrid for Tsitsipas, where he is seeded No. 6 in the ATP Masters 1000 Mutua Madrid Open. No rest for him, but plenty of newly-found confidence.

“I’ve been building my game. It hasn’t been an easy transition from hard to clay this year, so I’ve been trying to play as many matches as I can before the big events start.” said Tsitsipas. “Madrid obviously is going to be a huge challenge for me. I really want to do well, get as many points as possible, Rome as well.”

French duo win doubles title

Unseeded Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, both from France, defeated Great Britain’s Luke Bambridge and Jonny O’Mara, 7-5, 7-6 (3), to lift the Estoril Open doubles trophy. It was the second 2019 title win for Chardy and Martin, who won at Marseille earlier this season, and third overall. They improved their season record to 29-13.