Stefanos Tsitsipas contests his first quarter final of the season when he takes on Canada's Vasek Pospisil in Marseille on Friday.
Tsitsipas vs Pospisil is live from Marseille on Friday, 21 February from 4:30pm local time/ 3:30pm GMT
Tsitsipas is aiming for a sixth straight win in Marseille, having claimed the title last season, and beaten Swedish youngster, Mikael Ymer to open his title defence on Tuesday.
Tsitsipas has not always been at his best this season, but he was fine form against Ymer in his opening match, taking down the Swede 6-1 6-3 inside 71 minutes. The defending champion dropped just three points on his first serve, and faced no break points throughout the contest. He has now won ten consecutive sets in Marseille, after going through last year’s tournament without dropping a set.
Marseille was the first of three titles Tsitsipas won last year, following that triumph with titles in Estoril and at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London. The 21-year-old also reached finals in Dubai, Madrid and Beijing, made that sensational semi-final at the Australian Open, and finished a stunning year at No. 6 in the world, having peaked at No. 5 during the season.
He hasn’t quite been able to reproduce those heights in 2020, yet. The Greek went 1-2 at the seasoning opening ATP Cup, beating Alexander Zverev, but losing to Denis Shapovalov and Nick Kyrgios in two very tight matches. He then made the third round of the Australian Open, where he was beaten by Milos Raonic in an admittedly tough early draw, and crashed surprisingly to Aljaz Bedene in the second round in Rotterdam last week.
The world No. 6 was able to get past Ymer in his Marseille opener without any problems, but he is likely to encounter a lot more difficulty when he squares off against Pospisil on Friday.
Pospisil’s return to the top-100 has been one of the early feel good stories of the season. This time last year, the Canadian was in the midst of a six-month injury break following back surgery in January. He was down at 248th at the start of October last, but a strong run on the Challenger tour, featuring titles in Las Vegas and Charlottesville lifted him to a year-end ranking of 149th.
He took some time to get off the ground in 2020, winning just one match between Auckland and the Australian Open, but he has been superb since then, winning seven of his nine matches after Melbourne. His best result so far has been a runner-up finish in Montpellier, where he reached just his second tour-level final and first since Washington in 2014.
He also scored a big win over Daniil Medvedev in Rotterdam, but fell to Filip Krajinovic in the second round, in a match during which he struggled with an injury. He recovered in time to not only take his place in the Marseille draw, but put together two wins to advance to another quarter final. Pospisil defeated Emil Ruusuvuori 7-6 6-3 in the first round, before taking down rising Pole, Hubert Hurkacz 6-3 6-4 in the second round.
Powering down nine aces and winning 80% of points on his first serve, the Canadian saved all four break points he faced while he converted two of his eight break chances, breaking towards the end of each set to take the win.
Now ranked 98th in the world, can he score the big win over Tsitsipas on Friday?
He’s definitely got a chance as he’s been in fine form, and will be encouraged by Tsitsipas dodgy form this season. He has the weapons to hurt the Greek, the most potent being his serve and forehand, and will need both of those shots to come to the party on Friday if he’s to take down the second seed.
I still think Tsitsipas will win because of his better movement and variety, but he’s got be very close to the top of his game to contain the surging Pospisil.