Sakkari and Tsitsipas Advance in Paris

Sakkari and Tsitsipas Advance in Paris

It was a historic day for Greek tennis, as both Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the second round of the French Open.

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Maria Sakkari faced a familiar opponent in Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella. Sakkari had won two of their three previous meetings, including one just last month at the Fed Cup in Athens, where the Greek prevailed 6-0 6-1. Since then, Minella’s form has improved, as she is making rapid progress min her comeback from maternity leave.

The Greek got off to a good start, taking an early 2-0 lead. However, Minella would come back to take a 5-3 lead, and even found herself within two points of the set at one point. Nevertheless, Sakkari was able to come back and force a tiebreak to decide the set. Minella would go up 3-0 in that tiebreak, before Sakkari would rally from behind to take it 7-5. 

In the second set, Sakkari would go up an early break. Minella would then win a marathon game to break back and level it at 2-2. From then on, it was all Sakkari, as the Greek didn’t lose another game. She took the match 7-6(5) 6-2 to book her place in the second round of the French Open for the first time in her career. She has now reached the second round or better at all four majors.

She will now face world number 23 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain on Wednesday. Suarez Navarro won both previous encounters against Sakkari, a three-setter in the second round of the 2016 Australian Open, and a two-setter here last year in the first round. The former world number six is a two-time quarterfinalist at this event. 

19-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas played against Spanish qualifier Carlos Taberner in the first round. Tsitsipas, who was seeking his first career win in a Grand Slam main draw, got off to a good start as he took the first set 7-5. The second set would go to a tiebreak, where the Spaniard would reel off four consecutive points to take it 7-5. 

Tsitsipas got a crucial break in the third game of the third set, which he would eventually win by a score of 6-4. In the fourth set, Tsitsipas proved too strong for Taberner, taking it 6-3 to win 7-5 6-7(5) 6-4 6-3 and become the first Greek man to reach the second round of a major since Konstantinos Economidis did so here 11 years ago. With this victory, this marks the first time in the Open Era (1968-present) that Greece has two players in the second round of a Grand Slam. 

In the next round, Tsitsipas will once again take on Austria’s Dominic Thiem, the current world number eight. Thiem leads the head-to-head 2-1, although Tsitsipas won their most recent meeting in Barcelona last month, which also happens to be their only previous meeting on clay. It must be noted, however, that since that loss, Thiem has been in great form. He went on to beat world number one Rafael Nadal in Madrid, and won the title last week in Lyon. The Austrian has also reached the semifinals in Paris both of the last two years, so it will be a very difficult match for the young Greek.

Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis fell in the first round to Colombian Santiago Giraldo. Baghdatis was up a set and a break at 6-3 4-3, but was forced to retire from the match due to injury. He is set to play doubles with Tsitsipas, but it is unclear whether they will be able to participate as a result of the Cypriot’s injury.

Greece’s Valentini Grammatikopoulou competed in the qualifying tournament last week. The 21-year-old from Kilkis in Macedonia upset 24th-seeded Sofya Zhuk of Russia, before falling in three sets to Anna Kalinskaya, also from Russia.

by Andreas Stamas
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