Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals for the third time in five appearances thanks to a late-night 6-3, 6-1 victory over home favourite Bernabe Zapata Miralles on Tuesday.
The No.4 seed, a finalist in Madrid in 2019 and a semi-finalist last year, fired 15 winners against 13 unforced errors throughout the 73-minute affair. He also won a remarkable 62 percent of his return points against Zapata Miralles’ first serve.
Tsitsipas, who next takes on German big-hitter Jan-Lennard Struff, has now made the quarter-finals or better in his last 10 straight clay-court events.
“It was definitely tricky. He came pretty strong in some of my service games, I don’t think I played with a lot of high percentages there. I just wish I was able to accurately manage those situations just with a little bit more accuracy and giving myself a little more time to react,” said Tsitsipas of his win over Zapata Miralles.
“It’s never easy playing against Spaniards like him that know the surface very well. I think his intensity was quite impressive, especially when I was breaking him and had the chance to keep on going with my serve. But he didn’t give me that chance.
“I think there came a point where I kind of figured it out, I was able to take my time and concentrate on each ball individually, which gave me a bit more of that zen mode that I was looking for during that match.
“It seemed kind of chaotic in the beginning, there wasn’t much of a clear picture, and I pursued that relentlessly and that was the best feeling when I unlocked that a little bit and gave myself time to think and kind of construct my points.”
Zapata Miralles hit a career-high No.41 in the world in March on the back of reaching consecutive semi-finals in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
The 26-year-old from Valencia was making his Madrid main draw debut this fortnight and reached the fourth round by dismissing Mackenzie McDonald, No.19 seed Dan Evans, and Roman Safiullin.
After alternating holds in the opening two games, the set witnessed five consecutive breaks of serve, with Tsitsipas firing first and Zapata Miralles responding.
The Greek finally maintained his advantage by holding serve for 5-3 and broke Zapata Miralles again to scoop the first set in 41 minutes.
Tsitsipas led 2-0 in the second, but once again, Zapata Miralles pegged him back. A stubborn Tsitsipas was unperturbed, as he carved out an opening, and a run of 11 consecutive points helped him to a 5-1 lead. The 24-year-old served out the victory with ease as Zapata Miralles ran out of steam.
Zapata Miralles attacked Tsitsipas’ backhand a lot during the encounter and the Greek was hitting his down-the-line backhand quite cleanly by the end of the match.
“It’s like hitting a home run with a baseball bat, that’s how a single-handed backhand down the line feels like, and always felt like,” explained Tsitsipas.
“I’m happy I was able to navigate the ball precisely on this one, there were a few occasions where the ball came in deep and you would expect a cross-court and I was able to effortlessly navigate throughout the court, just as my cross-court. It felt good. It’s something I’ve been working on and I’m happy it paid off tonight.”
Looking ahead to German lucky loser Struff, Tsitsipas said: “He comes to the net, he’s attacking, I’m pretty clear of what’s going to come my way. Good preparation is always very important against players like this. And I’m looking forward to that battle.”