04:26 PM GMT May 05, 2019
Stefanos Tsitsipas gained vital confidence on the European clay on Sunday, beating Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 7-6(4) at the Millennium Estoril Open for his first clay-court title.
Greece's #NextGenATP star was too solid from the baseline for Cuevas, a six-time clay-court titlist, and the 20-year-old took advantage of the Uruguayan's struggles on serve to win his third ATP Tour title and second of the season. Both of Tsitsipas' previous titles had come indoors – in February at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, and last October at the Intrum Stockholm Open.
“You really have to fight hard and give your soul out on the court. This title means a lot to me. It's on clay, it's one of my preferred surfaces. It's nice to have completed the clay-hard court title [sweep] that I've been fighting for. Next is grass, or maybe even more clay-court titles this year, that would be wonderful,” Tsitsipas said.
He looked up to Cuevas and Roger Federer as a child, the Greek shared after the match, and Tsitsipas had won his prior FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Cuevas at 2017 Antwerp.
The #NextGenATP star was in control for the first set and a half. The two were mired in one-handed backhand baseline battles when Tsitsipas broke in the fourth game as Cuevas launched a forehand long.
The 33-year-old Cuevas landed only 53 per cent of his first serves in the opener, and the Greek capitalised, running around his backhand to start the point with deep forehands.
Tsitsipas looked to be cruising to the title, up a break and serving at 4-3 in the second. But the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals titlist lost his way and was broken for the first time in the match during a stretch of nine consecutive points won by Cuevas. Tsitsipas saved a set point at 4-5, Ad-Out, however, and the two traded breaks until the tie-break, where the Greek regained his level.
“I was very calm. I stayed aggressive, stayed motivated, didn't think too much. He didn't get into my head after he broke me back in the second set. That was kind of frustrating, but I kept fighting, kept believing that I can still win it in two sets,” Tsitsipas said.
He will receive 250 ATP Rankings points and €90,390. Cuevas, who was a lucky loser, will receive €48,870 and 150 ATP Rankings points.
Tsitsipas heads to back-to-back clay-court ATP Masters 1000 events, the Mutua Madrid Open and the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, full of belief.
“I've been building my game. It hasn't been an easy transition from hard to clay this year, so I've been trying to play as many matches as I can before the big events start. Madrid obviously is going to be a huge challenge for me. I really want to do well, get as many points as possible, Rome as well,” Tsitsipas said.
Did You Know?
Tsitsipas is only the second No. 1 seed in the tournament's five-year history to win the title (Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in 2017).