Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

February 19- March 4, 2023
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 19- March 4, 2023
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 26, 2020

Tsitsipas sets his marker, Struff stuns Bautista Agut

Tsitsipas 2020

Stefanos Tsitsipas, finalist last year in Dubai, signs autographs after his opening victory

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships served up some Centre Court thrillers on Tuesday, as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Benoit Paire overcame challenging opponents, whereas top seeds Fabio Fognini and Roberto Bautista Agut failed to survive the first round.

2019 finalist and second seed Tsitsipas came through a difficult first set before beating Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6 (1) 6-1 and Paire fought off four match points as he defeated Marin Cilic 2-6 7-5 7-6 (1). Fourth seed Fabio Fognini was beaten 3-6 6-4 7-5 by an inspired Daniel Evans, befofe fifth seed Roberto Bautista Agut fell 7-6 (2) 7-5 against Jan-Lennard Struff.

Tsitsipas had arrived on Monday from playing indoors in Marseille, where he defended the title. The Greek found the schedule challenging but eventually found a solution.

“Yeah, I was tired. I came in the match tired,” said world No.6 Tsitsipas. “I was upset with myself a little bit when I was 3-Love, 40-Love up and didn’t get the break. I realised I have to save that energy because the heat and it was difficult for me in the physical part.

“I tried to stay calm and not complain too much because I would definitely need that energy for later on in the match. I think I focused on my breathing, focused on constructing the points, staying in the point, trying to make things happen from my backhand side because that’s what I felt he played most of the time. Eventually I found solutions and started being more aggressive with my backhand.”

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Evans 2020
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British No.1 Evans not only recovered from being down a set and 3-1 against fourth seed Fognini, but from twice being a break down in the final set and then needing a nervous six match points to break serve at 6-5 and close out the match.

“It’s difficult to play Fabio. He’s such a class player,” said Evans, who last week reached a career-high ranking of 31. “Just happy to come through really. It was a good battle. I didn’t actually get to play my game too much, but it was good. Yeah, felt like he was on top forever really. Yeah, just hanging in. Good part of my game is hanging in, just staying in the match really. Points for double break in the second set, just stuck it out. It’s tough to play him.”

Tsitsipas 2020
A packed crowd enjoys 2019 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas chalking up his opening win in Dubai

Bautista Agut had made a great start to the season by winning his first eight matches as he helped Spain to the ATP Cup final. He had also never come close to dropping a set against Struff in their three previous meetings. But Struff played an aggressive and near flawless match to extinguish Bautista Agut’s hopes of regaining the trophy he won in 2018.

World No.34 Struff hailed one of the finest victories of his career, insisting the hard work is finally paying off.

“That was one of my best performances so far. I had a very good year last year,” stated the 29-year-old. “I tried to keep it going at the beginning of this year, but I had some tough draws like Novak (Djokovic) in the first round of the Australian Open, Felix Auger-Aliassime in Rotterdam. That’s been tough, I haven’t had many matches, so I’m very proud of that performance.”

There were also victories for Filip Krajinovic who fought past Joao Sousa 4-6 6-3 6-3, and Alexander Bublik who beat Hubert Hurzkacz 6-2 7-5. Pierre-Hugues Herbert ousted Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5 6-2 and Nikoloz Basilashvili edged past Ricardas Berankis 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-3. Two qualifiers reached the second round as Dennis Novak defeated Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4 6-3 and Yasutaka Uchiyama beat Yen-Hsun Lu 3-6 6-1 6-2.

“We have watched four thrilling matches on the Centre Court today, and the skill that all eight players showed was remarkable,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Such is the strength of the field here this week that already we have seen that no player can be assured of victory, no matter what their position and reputation.”

Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “Tennis fans have been entertained once more with a number of very close matches today, with two seeds falling by the wayside, and there will no doubt be many more upsets and close contests before we crown the 2020 champion.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The tournament continues until 29th February with world No.1 and Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, ATP Finals and recent Marseille winner Stefanos Tsitsipas, and 2020 Rotterdam and Montpellier champion Gael Monfils.

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