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SMASHING START FOR TSITSIPAS

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas surged into Mubadala World Tennis Championship contention with a straight sets win over Russian Andrey Rublev at the International Tennis Centre in Zayed Sports City.

In the first of eight matches over three action-packed days in the UAE capital, Tsitsipas triumphed 6-3, 6-4 in a big-hitting battle between two of the world’s best male players.

With thousands of young fans flooding into the Mubadala World Tennis Championship Tennis Village to make the most of clinics, autograph and Q&A sessions with star players throughout the day, all eyes switched to the pristine playing surface at 4pm as an array of Greek flags evidenced the Abu Dhabi arrival of arguably the Mediterranean nation’s finest sportsman.

World No. 6 Tsitsipas took control early, demonstrating the full range of his significant shot repertoire to race into a 3-0 lead. The imperious start underlined why tennis experts are anticipating 2020 will be the year Tsitsipas lands a maiden Grand Slam title.

Still only 21 years of age, the Greek’s huge power and fluid movement around the court proved too much for Rublev in the early exchanges. The Russian displayed a deftness of touch in executing several point-winning drop shots, but the comeback was short-lived as Tsitsipas ran out a 6-3 winner.

A cagey start to the second set turned on its head when the towering Greek caught a lucky net cord to earn a break point, which he duly converted to move 3-2 ahead. From there, the outcome was a formality, as Tsitsipas closed out the match in one hour and eight minutes.

“It was a well-balanced match and we both gave the fans something they could enjoy. I stuck to my game plan from my forehand side and served well at times. I need much more consistency moving into the season, but I found ways to make it happen. I am going to keep trying to mix it up by working on things which will be important in the future,” said Tsitsipas.

Having earned a semi-final clash with World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, Tsitsipas added: “Competition between us is very intense and it’s difficult test this early in the season. I need to be focused.”

Despite his losing start at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Rublev was optimistic: “This game is amazing preparation for the season and we both played seriously. When you play the first real matches of your pre-season against top players it gives you confidence to take into a major tournament. To play well and find the rhythm of playing matches gives you a lot.”