The ATP Tour is finally underway and a mouth-watering contest beckons on just the second day of its return. Power-packed players in the form of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Kevin Anderson will face off in the second round of the Western and Southern Open on Sunday.
Without fans in the stands, especially on the main Grandstand court, day one must felt quite different for players and even for those watching remotely. While many players have been ruing the missed opportunity of channeling fan support, Tstisipas ha taken the positives from it.
“[The controlled environment] gives me, in a way, a different approach towards my tennis. It gives me an opportunity to focus more on my tennis and less on what is happening outside of it, which is great,” Tsitsipas said on the eve of the tournament. The Greek star will need all of that focus when he faces a tricky opponent in Anderson.
World number six Tsitsipas will aim to regain his pre-hiatus form that led to him winning an ATP event in Marseille. He also finished as runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the Dubai Open in February. He returned to action before the ATP Tour restarted, with appearances at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown. But the Western and Southern Open and US Open that are yet to happen are a different ball game, and Tsitsipas knows this.
Meanwhile, Kevin Anderson has already got the taste of playing in the new environment. On Saturday, he overcame Kyle Edmund in a tough three-set battle. Anderson prevailed 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3 after almost three hours on court. That will be a big factor in his match against a high-quality opponent in Tsitsipas with such a short time in between.
Anderson looked understandably rusty and restricted in his movement, given the lack of match practice in the last two seasons. However, a win always does a lot good to one’s confidence and Anderson will need to be confident against Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas has won two of the three contests so far between the two men, all in 2018. However, Anderson won their last match at the Shanghai Masters. The other two contests that Tsitsipas won were both three-set thrillers.
Despite the fatigue that Anderson might have after the first round, Tsitsipas cannot rest easy. Anderson is motivated to be back after long and will take his chances. It would be no surprise if we see another three-set battle between them. Four of the eight sets Anderson and Tsitsipas have played against each other so far have been decided by tie-breakers.
Both men have very good serves and forehands. But the difference could be Tsitsipas’ huge one-handed backhand. Meanwhile, Anderson will hope to make use of the court-time he earned on Saturday. He can play long rallies and so can Tsitsipas, but the longer the match goes, the better it will be for Tsitsipas who is a title contender.
Prediction: Stefanos Tsitsipas is to win in three sets