Defending champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas continues his quest for back-to-back Marseille titles when he confronts Alexander Bublik in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Tsitsipas vs Bublik is live from Marseille on Saturday, 22 February from 3:00pm local time/ 2:00pm GMT
Tsitsipas arrived the tournament having not made a quarter final in 2020, but he’s moved to his first semi-final of the season following straight sets victories over Mikael Ymer and Vasek Pospisil.
He was generally untroubled in his 6-1 6-3 opening round victory over Ymer, but was made to work a little harder by Pospisil in the quarter finals, before coming away with a 7-5 6-3 win. For long periods, there was nothing to choose between Tsitsipas and Pospisil, but the Greek edged a tight opening set via a solitary break at 5-5, before pulling away in the latter half of the second set. The defending champion won the last 10 points of the match, breaking twice towards the end to get the win.
Tsitsipas took care of business on his serve, winning 87% of points on his first serve and 73% on his second. He offered Pospisil no break points and converted three of the five opportunities he created.
“It wasn’t easy, I knew I’d have to fight and be dynamic,” said Tsitsipas. “He plays a very aggressive brand of tennis, so every point has to be treated respectfully. I played with passion and patience, and my fighting spirit, when I’m in the right zone, means good things can happen.”
The Greek enjoyed a sensational breakout year in 2019, winning titles in Marseille, Estoril and the Nitto ATP Finals, and climbing from 91st in January to a year-end ranking of 6th, but he hadn’t really taken off this year. He won one of three matches at the inaugural ATP Cup, lost to Milos Raonic in the third round of the Australian Open, and crashed to a second round loss to Aljaz Bedene in Rotterdam. Is this the week when he finally gets going again? The 21-year-old has been in fine form in Marseille, and will attempt to stretch his winning streak at the venue to seven matches when he faces Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Bublik is into his third tour-level semi-final, following a 7-5 4-6 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov on Friday.
Bublik was the marginally better player in a tight contest, sending down 14 aces, doubling Shapovalov’s tally in that department, and winning 79% of points on his first serve. The 22-year-old also saved eight of the ten break points he faced.
There was a ten-minute delay in the sixth game of the second set when a spectator fainted in the stands. Bublik missed three break chances in that game, losing the chance to take a 7-5 4-2 lead, and would go on to drop his serve in the next game. Shapovalov maintained that advantage to take the set and force a decider. Both players exchanged breaks early in the third set, but Bublik grabbed the decisive break at 4-3, before serving out the victory to love.
“He’s a great player and server,” said Bublik after the match. “It was our first match, but I’ve known him for a very long time. I was happy to break in the first set, then in the second set he was better, and I had my chances in the third and I held on. So I’m very happy.”
The Kazakh will be looking to maintain his perfect record in tour-level semi-finals when he faces Tsitsipas on Saturday. Bublik’s previous semi-finals were in Newport and Chengdu last season, winning both matches before falling short in the final of both events. He didn’t do much on the ATP Tour outside those runner-up finishes, but he beefed up his ranking with a fine campaign on the Challenger Tour, winning titles in Budapest, Pau and Monterrey.
The 22-year-old broke into the top-100 for the first time in April last year, and would go on to peak at No. 48 before finishing the year at 56th. He has maintained that top-60 ranking through the opening two months of 2020 despite his slow start to the year. Bublik failed to win back-to-back matches in his opening five tournaments, but he has compiled three fine wins in Marseille, beating Marton Fucsovics, Benoit Paire and Shapovalov to reach the semis.
Can he take down defending champion Tsitsipas when they meet for the first time on Saturday?
It’s been a great week for Bublik, and his eccentric style will cause Tsitsipas a few problems, but Tsitsipas looks like he’s been in a very good space in Marseille, and his consistency, especially on serve, should see him over the line.