Thu. 29 Dec 2022 - Sun 8 Jan 2023

Tsitsipas Fends Off Dimitrov In Thriller To Give Greece 2-0 Lead

Updated12/29/2022 9:20:00 AM

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Grigor Dimitrov served an opening-day thriller at the inaugural United Cup on Thursday in Perth.

It was Team Greece star Tsitsipas who found something extra to clinch victory at RAC Arena, however, as he dug deep for a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) victory to give his nation a 2-0 lead in the Group A tie.

[There was] a lot of drama,” said Tsitsipas in Team Greece’s post-match press conference. “Both of us I think were serving extremely well during the course of the entire match. There weren't a lot of moments that I felt like I could do something except the second set, which went really smoothly from my side.”

Dimitrov went toe-to-toe throughout the two-hour, 10-minute encounter with Tsitsipas, producing some sharp returning en route to the first set against Team Greece’s ATP World No. 4. After Tsitsipas found his range to surge to the second, his big serve ultimately proved decisive in the closing stages as he capped a nailbiting win in the deciding-set tie-break.

“Grigor gave an unforced error from the first point of the tiebreaker,” said Tsitsipas. “I knew that this was my moment to really go for it. I tried to suppress all emotions. I tried to stay within the moment, let any negative thoughts out of my head, and I continued and cruised from that point onwards.”

It was 24-year-old Tsitsipas’ 250th tour-level win. The Greek was particularly cool under pressure in the final set, when Dimitrov’s controlled aggression carved out three break points, including two when trailing 3-4. Tsitsipas saved them all before charging to what proved to be an unassailable 5/2 lead in the tie-break as he extended his ATP Head2Head record against Dimitrov to 6-1.


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The win opened up a 2-0 lead for Team Greece after the first three-set battle in United Cup history earlier saw Despina Papamichail come from a set and a break down to defeat Isabella Shinikova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 19 minutes.

It was the second time in the past three months that Papamichail had defeated Shinikova from a set down, having previously won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) in a Monastir ITF W60 tournament in October.

Initially, Shinikova's heavier weight of shot prevailed. The 31-year-old built an early 3-1 lead, and resisted a comeback attempt from Papamichail to survive eight deuces and regain the break for 4-2.

But trailing 2-1 in the second set, Papamichail's tenacious qualities shone through. The Greek player began to find a plethora of winners, with her backhand particularly impressive, and delivered a near-flawless passage of play to level the match.

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An ailing Shinikova required strapping on her left leg ahead of the third set, and on resumption her struggles on serve were evident. The No.381-ranked Bulgarian managed to take an early break again but was unable to sustain the rally tolerance required to hit through Papamichail. Cramps in her racquet hand midway through the set only added to Shinikova's woes, and Papamichail cruised through the last six games in a row.

"I'm playing with a really strong team," said Papamichail on court afterwards. "Maria [Sakkari] is a big example for me, so the least I could do was fight my heart out."