Stefanos Tsitsipas faces a tricky start to his Dubai campaign as he takes on Spaniard, Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round on Tuesday.
Tsitsipas vs Carreno Busta is live from Dubai on Tuesday, 25 February from 7:00pm local time/ 3:00pm GMT
Tsitsipas is coming off a successful title defence in Marseille, where he moved past Mikael Ymer, Vasek Pospisil, Alexander Bublik and Felix Auger-Aliassime to claim his first title of the season. The 21-year-old has now won back-to-back Marseille titles without dropping a set.
“[Winning without dropping a set] makes me very proud”, said Tsitsipas after his victory over Auger-Aliassime in the Marseille final. “I am just going to continue doing my job, working to make it even better next time. My opponents, I respect every single one of them… It means the world to me to be able to be one of these people that can play well and others can enjoy watching.”
Tsitsipas will hope that his title run really Kick-starts his 2020 season, which had been rather ordinary up until last week. The Greek won just one of his three matches at the season-opening ATP Cup, lost to Milos Raonic in the third round of the Australian Open, and crashed to Aljaz Bedene in the second round in Rotterdam, but he got things back in order in Marseille, where he claimed his fifth career title.
Following his Marseille triumph in 2019, Tsitsipas went on to claim further titles in Estoril and the Nitto ATP Finals, and was runner-up in Dubai, Madrid and Beijing. He ended a terrific year at No. 6 in the world, just one spot shy of his career-high ranking, which he also attained last season.
The 21-year-old is competing in Dubai for the third consecutive season- he made the quarter finals on debut in 2018, beating Mikhail Kukushkin and Philipp Kohlschreiber before losing to Malek Jaziri, while he went a couple of steps further last year, taking out Matthew Ebden, Egor Gerasimov, Hubert Hurkacz and Gael Monfils before losing to Roger Federer in the championship match. That runner-up finish was good enough to take Tsitsipas into the top-ten for the first time. He has been a member of that club since then.
Can the world No. 6 register his fifth win on the bounce when he takes on Pablo Carreno Busta in his Dubai opener on Tuesday?
World No. 27, Carreno Busta usually features at the South American clay swing at this time of the year, but he’s altered his previous routine this season, and is competing in Dubai for the first time in his career.
The former world No. 10 was a semi-finalist in his most recent tournament in Rotterdam, where he scored battling three-set wins against Adrian Mannarino, Roberto Bautista-Agut and Jannik Sinner before losing to Felix Auger-Aliassime, and he will look to keep up the momentum as he continues to search for his best form.
The Spaniard was a semi-finalist at the US Open in 2017, and a top-ten player up until February 2018, but he hasn’t been at his consistent best in the last two seasons- injuries playing a part- and has finished outside the top-20 in each of the last two years.
Carreno Busta was down at 69th in August last year, but he salvaged his season with a strong finish, winning the Chengdu title, reaching the semis in Stockholm and quarter finals in Winston-Salem, Metz and Vienna. He had also made semi-finals in Hamburg and Antalya earlier in the season.
The 28-year-old ended the season at 27th in the world, and has hovered in and around that ranking in the first two months of 2020. He has put together a 6-3 start to the season, reaching the semi-finals in Rotterdam, quarter finals in Auckland and the third round of the Australian Open, where he was beaten by Rafael Nadal. He also suffered a first round loss to Norbert Gombos in Montpellier.
Can he avoid a second opening round defeat of the year when he faces Tsitsipas in Dubai on Tuesday?
Tsitsipas won their only previous meeting in Barcelona in 2018, and definitely starts as favourite, but Carreno Busta is very difficult to shake off when he finds his best tennis. The Spaniard doesn’t give much away from the back of the court, and is also very capable of finishing off points off both wings. Tsitsipas will have to quickly get rid of any hangovers from Marseille, and find something close to his best form if he is to dodge an early exit in Dubai on Tuesday.