At Cincinnati Masters, Tsitsipas Shows There’s Room For New Stars

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: @CincyTennis/Twitter)

MASON, OHIO/WASHINGTON, August 20, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

With the five active players with the most Grand Slam titles – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (men) and Serena Williams and Venus Williams (women) – all missing from this week’s Western & Southern Open, it has allowed the spotlight to shine on others, such as the men’s No. 1 and 2 seeds Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as well as a variety of women, including Barbora Krejcikova and Paula Badosa, and now Jil Teichmann, who scored the biggest upset of her career Thursday evening, thanks to her 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 stunning victory over World No. 2 and second seed Naomi Osaka.

While all of the decorated veterans – the Big Three and the Williams sisters – have played selected schedules, whether by choice or while nursing injuries, their absence this week in Mason, Ohio, in the Cincinnati suburbs, is noticeable and striking. Yet, it suits others just fine.

“I think there is a room for new stars,” Tsitsipas, 23, said last week during the National Bank Open in Toronto, where he was a semifinalist. The rising Greek star has been seeded second for both ATP Masters 1000 events that are lead-ups to the US Open, which begins on Aug. 30 in New York.

“It’s been a lot about them in recent years, and I think now it’s showing that things are changing. We see a different generation of players stepping up and showing what they are capable of.

“It’s interesting to have this kind of variation of change of thrones, let’s call it. It’s interesting for our game. We, ourselves, we have generated our own team of people and fans that support us, give us love, and are there for us in each single match following us.”

On Wednesday evening, the World No. 3 Tsitsipas came through a tough test against #NextGenATP star No. 45 Sebastian Korda of the United States, winning 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Center Court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. He hit 21 winners to just 12 unforced errors, won 89 percent (33 of 37) of his first-serve points, saved two break points and outpointed Korda 77-65.

“I was able to bring the best out of my game when things got tough and persevere,” Tsitsipas said during his on-court interview afterward. “I was consistent throughout the important moments and I think just trying to find solutions and ways to apply as much pressure as possible. That was the key element today.”

The victory was the 46th for Tsitsipas and set up a third-round clash on Thursday evening against Italy’s No. 27 Lorenzo Sonego, who advanced with a 7-6 (9), 6-2 win over American Tommy Paul. In their only meeting earlier this year at the Miami Open, Tsitsipas prevailed over Sonego, 6-2, 7-6 (2).

“He’s a passionate player,” Tsitsipas said of the 26-year-old Italian from Turin. “He brings the best out of himself in every single match that he gets to play. Obviously, I’m someone who is going to try and find solutions against any opponent that I’m going to be facing this week. Let the best man win.”

As it happened, Tsitsipas won – but it wasn’t easy. Sonego made him go the distance. After conceding the opening set, Tsitsipas finally pulled out a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory in two hours and 25 minutes on the Grandstand Court to reach his fifth ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal this season. At the beginning of the second set, Tsitsipas found himself with his back against the baseline in his first service game down love-40. Then, point-by-point, he saved three break points to hold, then broke Sonego for a 2-0 lead. It was a turning point for Tsitsipas, as he explained during his post-match interview on court.

“That was a game changer, you know,” he said. “After finding my game from that part of the match onward, things worked pretty well for me. The psychology kind of changed. I was really down love-40 that game. Having the fighting spirit and not letting go was very crucial.”

Tsitsipas was one of 10 men’s seeds who began play on Thursday looking to make it to the last eight. Seven of them made the grade. With his win over Sonego, Tsitsipas has reached his 12th quarterfinal of the season. Next, he will face No. 12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, who upset No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy, 6-4, 6-3.

Teichmann takes down Osaka for second Top 5 win this year

Wild card Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, ranked 76th, had nothing to lose and everything to gain when she faced World No. 2 Naomi Osaka on Center Court Thursday evening. After the Japanese superstar jumped out to a 3-0 lead and won the opening set 6-3, it was worth noting that since the start of 2017, Osaka was 118-3 when winning the first set. However, as the two-hour and four-minute match wore on, Osaka became more vulnerable and Teichmann never let up or gave in.

By the end of the third-round match, Osaka would suffer her worst loss since February 2020 and Teichmann would earn her second Top 5 win of the season (the first was against Elina Svitolina in the first round at Madrid) and third of her career, thanks to her 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory that lifted her into Friday’s quarterfinal round.

The left-handed hitting Teichmann, who was born in Barcelona, hit eight aces and struck 21 winners against 29 unforced errors, showing her willingness to draw Osaka into long rallies. She converted six of 12 break-points and outpointed her second-seeded opponent 92-80. Osaka was done in by seven double faults and 41 unforced errors.

During her on-court interview following her victory, Teichmann said:

“I’m shaking right now. I’m very, very happy with this win. I’ve had a very tough year with many, many injuries. … I’m happy it’s working out right now.”

Teichmann knew she was taking on a four-time Grand Slam champion and the tournament’s No. 2 seed in Osaka. Yet, she played fearless tennis.

“I knew she’s a very tough opponent,” Teichmann said. “She’s a Grand Slam champion. I’m the underdog, so… my plan was to just play my game.

“I move very good, I change up everything I can – directions, height, everything – and I think she didn’t really feel very comfortable about it, and I served very good.”

Next, Teichmann will play No. 10 seed Belinda Bencic in an all-Swiss quarterfinal. Bencic advanced by retirement over No. 23 Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic after an hour and 19 minutes with Bencic leading 7-5, 2-1.

Medvedev reaches fourth quarterfinal in last five tournaments

World No. 2 and top seed Daniil Medvedev kept alive his hopes of completing a Toronto-Cincinnati double this week. After beating Reilly Opelka to win the National Bank Open in Toronto on Sunday, Medvedev reached his fourth quarterfinal round in his last five tournaments after defeating No. 21 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, 6-3, 6-3 to begin play on Center Court Thursday afternoon.

“What makes it tough [on the Toronto-Cincinnati double], it is two weeks in a row against the best players in the world,” Medvedev said during his on-court interview after the victory. “I am still young, healthy and feeling 100 percent. So, that is why I want to try and do it.”

The 25-year-old Medvedev put up solid numbers in winning for the 39th time this season – and third straight against Dimitrov. He hit seven aces and added 15 winners while 74 percent (32 of 43) of his first-serve points. He broke Dimitrov’s serve four times during the one hour and 29-minute victory that advanced him to face No. 7 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, who defeated No 9 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), with 26 winners and just 11 unforced errors. The Olympic bronze medal-winner Carreño Busta outpointed Hurkacz 98-84 to earn his 29th victory of the season.

“It was tough, especially in the second set,” Medvedev said. “I had four break points before I broke him. I knew I had to continue to push him. Grigor is an amazing player, but a little bit worse on the backhand, and I like when people slice, so that was a tactic to try to put pressure on him there. Of course, [I] mixed it up with the forehand sometimes and it seemed to work really well.”

• Other men’s winners: It was a good day for most of the seeds to prevail and advance to the quarterfinals. Among them, No. 3 Alexander Zverev of Germany, No. 4 Andrey Rublev of Russia and No. 8 Casper Ruud of Norway all won in straight sets. Zverev beat No. 93 Guido Pella of Argentina, 6-2, 6-3; Rublev outlasted No. 22 Gaël Monfils of France, 7-6 (2), 7-5 (5), and Ruud took out No. 10 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 6-4, 6-3.

Current No. 1 Barty tames former No. 1 Azarenka

Ashleigh Barty, the current World No. 1 from Australia and the top seed this week at the Western & Southern Open, mastered former World No. 1 and 14th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-0, 6-2 in 71 minutes on Center Court. It was not much of a battle as Barty started strongly in the opening set and never trailed.

“It was a fantastic performance from Ash Barty, who started this match with a clear plan, attacking the ball and hitting with pace and depth,” said Tennis Channel analyst Chanda Rubin. “Her serve was especially lethal. She lost very few points behind her first serve. She kept Azarenka off-balance the entire match. It’s not easy to beat Azarenka in such a one-sided fashion with how well she competes. It was all Ash Barty today.”

Although Azarenka saved two match points in holding serve during a 12-point seventh game, Barty finished the job in the next game to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round against No. 9 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who pulled out a 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory over No. 8 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain in a showdown of Top 10 players, winning on her sixth match-point opportunity after two hours and 24 minutes. The reigning French Open champion Krejcikova saved all five break points she faced and outpointed Muguruza 108-83 in a rematch of their Dubai final earlier this year.

Barty knew she had to play her best against the defending Western & Southern Open champion and dominated Azarenka behind her serve. She hit six aces and 25 winners while saving all three break points she faced. Barty took advantage of 20 unforced errors by Azarenka and outpointed her opponent 61-40. It was Azarenka’s worst loss since 2007 and it marked the sixth time this season that Barty has won a bagel (6-0) set.

“Vika has a way of bringing out the very best in me,” Barty said during her post-match TV interview on court. “We have a lot of respect for each other and always have good battles. Regardless of who wins and who loses, you always get a good handshake. You look each other in the eye and say ‘too good’ and it’s like it never happened. That’s what I really respect about Vika. I knew today was going to be exceptionally tough. I felt like I played a great match throughout the whole thing.”

Barty beat the World No. 10 Krejcikova in their only prior meeting, in the fourth round of this year’s Wimbledon en route to winning her second major title.

Kerber maintains confidence under pressure

Making her landmark 10th appearance at the Western & Southern Open, Angelique Kerber is no stranger to making deep runs in the Queen City – having been a finalist in 2012 and 2016. This year, the unseeded and 22nd-ranked Kerber from Germany has continued her remarkable summer, in which she’s won 12 of her last 13 matches. Her confidence is running over and her recent match performances reflect her run of good fortune.

In the fourth time this year that the German No. 1 has come back to win after losing the first set, Kerber beat No. 30 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. She overcame being down 0-3 in the final set and finished with 22 winners against just 12 unforced errors. Meanwhile, her opponent piled up 49 winners but also was prone to mistakes by making 45 unforced errors.

Kerber, who advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal against No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, was quite elated to win, again, and by the crowd support.

“This is so special for me,” Kerber said, as she revealed a big smile on her face during her on-court interview. “I played here in the finals twice and coming back to Cincinnati I always feel like home. Thank youguys for supporting us! It means a lot being able to play my best tennis in front of you and pushing me through.

“It was really important to stay focused after the first set – finding my rhythm and playing my tennis. In the third set, I just tried to play point by point. It’s always tough to play against Jelena, but I’m happy to be through and playing another match tomorrow.”

• No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova easily beat No. 20 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 6-1, 6-2 in 63 minutes by converting five of 13 break-point opportunities and outpointing her 60-40. The World No. 11 Kvitova won 65 percent of her service points and backed it with a 56 percent efficiency rate on her return points.

• Other women’s winners: No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova ended a four-match losing streak to Jessica Pegula and defeated the 25th-ranked American, 6-4, 7-6 (5), coming back from 0-5 down in the second set and winning on her fifth match point during the tie break. Pliskova overcame 32 unforced errors to hit 16 winners and converted five of seven break points. She will play 29th-ranked upstart Paula Badosa of Spain, who garnered her 33rd win of the season with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over No. 19 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, winning 83 percent (45 of 54) of her service points and facing no break points during the one hour and 26 minute match.

Thursday’s Western & Southern Open results

Friday’s Western & Southern Open order of play

Around the Western & Southern Open

Tournament title sponsor to match Osaka’s pledged donation

Cincinnati’s Western & Southern Financial. Group, the title sponsor of the Western & Southern Open, announced Thursday it will match Naomi Osaka‘s pledged donation of her prize money at this week’s tournament to Haiti’s earthquake relief efforts. By reaching the third round before losing Thursday evening, Osaka earned $24,200.

Benoit Paire: Unfiltered

By the numbers

• With his 7-6 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1 victory over 26th-ranked American John Isner, No. 50 Benoit Paire of France has reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal since 2013 at Rome. Since then, he had appeared in 52 ATP Masters 1000 events without reaching the last eight.

Jil Teichmann came into this week’s Western & Southern Open with a 1-5 win-loss record since suffering an ankle injury while playing in the Internationaux de Strasbourg in May that kept her out of the French Open. She’s reached her fourth quarterfinal of the season by beating Sorana Cirstea and Bernarda Pera in addition to Naomi Osaka. Her win over Osaka improved her season win-loss record to 16-14.


“I felt like I was able to control my service games quite well and win a lot of free points off my first serve, which is obviously keen. I wanted to continue to build pressure on Vika’s serve. Whenever I’m able to look out over my own games it gives me more freedom to play aggressively on her service games. I felt like I had a really good balance of that today.”

Ashleigh Barty on not letting her opponent, Victoria Azarenka, get into any kind of rhythm during their third-round match, which Barty won 6-0, 6-2.