10:30 PM GMT May 28, 2018
Can you identify this Roland Garros dark horse?
He is an impressive 15-5 so far in this year’s clay-court swing, including ATP World Tour qualifying and main-draw matches. During the run, he has defeated seven Top 50 players, including four in the Top 20 and two in the Top 10.
He reached the final at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, an ATP World Tour 500 event, but is still yet to celebrate his 20th birthday. He is at a career-high No. 39 in the ATP Rankings, so he is not yet on most people’s radar to go deep at Roland Garros. That needs to change.
He is the in-form 19-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the #NextGenATP star on clay this year reveals that he is already serving at a Top 10 level. He is ranked 10th best on Tour in 2018 on the red dirt, holding serve 85.37 per cent (140/164) of the time. In comparison, No. 1 Rafael Nadal is holding serve 87.12 per cent (142/163) – just 1.75 percentage points higher than the Greek teenager.
When the big points have rolled around on serve, Tsitsipas has handled the pressure of break points extremely well on clay this season, saving 68 per cent (51/75). This has him ranked 14th best on clay in 2018 in this important category.
Tsitsipas has directed most of his first serves out wide on clay this season in the Deuce court, making 55 per cent wide, eight per cent at the body and 37 per cent down the T. Even though the wide slider goes to the typically stronger forehand return, it pulls the returner off the court, immediately creating a big hole to the vacant Ad court to direct an aggressive Serve +1 forehand.
The other smart strategy Tsitsipas has employed when serving wide in the Deuce court on clay is to actually let the returner recover back towards the middle of the court, and then hit behind them. Playing behind on clay works better than hard court, as players can’t stop and change directions nearly as quickly.
What Tsitispas must improve this week at Roland Garros is to break serve more often. He is just 43rd best on clay this season with Return Games Won, at 25.95 per cent (41/158), according to the ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS, powered by Infosys Nia Data.
His two best wins this season on clay were defeating then-No. 7 Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-2 in the quarter-finals of Barcelona and beating then-No. 8 Kevin Anderson the next week at the Millennium Estoril Open 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3.
This time last year, Tsitsipas was ranked No. 205 and battled through three rounds of qualifying at Roland Garros before falling in the first round 7-6(5), 7-5, 6-4 to Ivo Karlovic. Tsitsipas played an ATP Challenger Tour event both before and after Roland Garros in 2017.
What a difference a year makes. This year, his lead-in form suggests he may very well be around in the second week of Roland Garros, where anything is possible.