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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, June 11, 2021

 
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Stefanos Tsitsipas made history as the first Greek Grand Slam finalist battling by Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the Roland Garros final.

Photo credit: Roland Garros Facebook

Slide marks from three-and-a-half hours of physical play streaked the clay like routes on a red road map.

Driving through his shots, Stefanos Tsitsipas unleashed passion play to achieve the dream advancing to his maiden major final in Paris.

More: Controversial Call Sparks Debate

A dynamic Tsitsipas out-dueled Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in a rousing Roland Garros semifinal making history as the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam singles final.

A roller-coaster ride of match saw massive momentum swings with the turning point coming in the opening game of the final set. In a stirring stand, 
Tsitsipas dug out of a triple break-point deficit denying all three break points to hold serve. Zverev saved four match points in his final service game.

In his fifth appearance in Paris and 15th Grand Slam, Tsitsipas showed  grit serving out his first major semifinal win in style slashing an ace out wide to close an entertaining and nervy three hour, 37-minute battle.



The 22- years-old Greek is the youngest male major finalist since a 22-year-old Andy Murray was runner-up at the 2010 Australian Open and the youngest Roland Garros finalist since a 22-year-old Rafael Nadal captured the 2008 French Open championship.

Rising to world No. 4 with this win, Tsitsipas will try to continue this amazing journey against either 13-time champion Nadal or world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.

During his post-match interview with Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, Tsitsipas closed his eyes and pinched back tears reflecting on his journey to this moment.




"All I can think of is my roots where I came from a really small place outside Athens," Tsitsipas said. "My dream was to play on the really big stage of the French Open one day. I would have never thought I could."

Tsitsipas beat Zverev for the six time in eight meetings raising his 2021 record to an ATP-best 39-8. Elevating his play at crunch time, Tsitsipas scored his fourth career Top 10 win in a Slam, while Zverev dropped to 0-10 vs. Top 10 opponents in Grand Slam play.

"I started to play proper tennis in the third set," Zverev said. "Against someone like Stefanos, it might be too late.

"Today if I break him the first game of the fifth set, maybe the outcome would be different. I didn't. But still, I mean, I can't go down two sets to love against a top player like Stefanos and expect to win every single time."

Though Zverev had won the pair's last meeting in the Acapulco final on hard court in March, Tsitsipas had leveraged his all-court acumen winning five of their prior seven meetings. Zverev did himself no favors spitting up successive double faults and an unforced error to donate his opening service game. Tsitsipas confirmed the break at 30, forging a 3-0 lead.

Seventeen minutes into the match, Zverev rattled the Greek's Wilson racquet with a heavy body serve to get on the scoreboard.

Tsitsipas effectively applied his all-court skills working the length and width of the court sustaining his lead.

The sun escaped a collusion of cloud cover and Zverev raised a new yellow ball to the sky, slamming down first serves holding for 3-5.

Serving for the opening set, Tsitsipas' ivory adidas shirt was soaked with sweat sticking to his frame like a skin diving suit. Tsitsipas dive-bombed forehands of varied angle to his opponent's forehand side before drawing a backhand error for a one-set lead after 39 minutes. Zverev's two double faults in his first service game proved to be pivotal in the set.

The lanky Greek was 4-0 when winning the first set vs. Zverev and the German set out to alter that ledger of loss.

Bursting up quickly to a drop shot, Zverev showed his athleticism poking a pass. When Tsitsipas sailed a forehand Zverev erupted with a shout scoring his first break for 2-0. The German jumped out to a 3-0 second-set lead mirroring Tsitsipas' first-set start.

Pressuring in the fifth game, Tstisipas ran around his backhand to rip a forehand return drawing the error to break back for 2-3.




Eye-popping athleticism turned this set in Tsitsipas' favor. We know how dangerous he is on the attack yet Tsitsipas showed his defensive skills with forehand dig on the stretch to set up his transition game and a fine finish at net. That shot showed the all-court disparity between the pair. Tsitsipas scored his second straight break when Zverev tripped a flat forehand off the tape.

Playing proactive tennis closer to the baseline, Tsitsipas soared through six straight games seizing a two-set lead after 79 minutes when Zverev committed consecutive errors trying to squeeze his flatter drives closer to the lines in vain.

An energized Tsitsipas tore through seven straight games before Zverev stopped his slide, clocking a crosscourt two-hander to level the third set after two games.

Cruise control is a tough gear to sustain in best-of-five sets against a Top 10 seed. Tsitsipas played his sloppiest game of the match spraying four unforced errors to gift the break and cede a 2-1 lead.

Playing from behind in successive serve games, Zverev torched trouble away with some flaming first serves holding for 5-3.

A linesman incorrectly called a Tsitsipas shot out as Zverev netted a squash shot forehand. French chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein checked the mark and called the shot good awarding the point to the Greek rather than a replay of the point setting Zverev off.

"That's a bulls**t f**king decision," Zverev said.  "I hit a squash shot... I could have hit it...  That's bulls**t!"

Venting over the call helped Zverev release negative stress. The sixth seed shanked an absurd smash that slinkied over net and followed with a fine volley that helped him serve out the third set.

Riding that winning wave into the fourth set, Zverev broke to start the set stinging some deep returns and breaking when Zverev flattened a forehand into net.




Serving to force a fifth set, Zverev played a pair of brilliant points capping a crackling rally with an exceptional forehand drop volley then freezing the Greek with a rainbow lob into the corner for double set point. On his second set point, Zverev zapped an electric serve to force this semifinal to a fifth set after two hours, 50 minutes.

Adapting more aggressive court positioning and serving with more menace the US Open finalist fought his way into a fifth and shifted the pressure square on Tsitsipas' shoulders to respond.

Facing a dire triple break point danger zone to start the decider, Tsitsipas summoned self belief and his adrenalized forehand firing back for five straight points to hold.

Through the first four sets, devoted baseliner Zverev actually attacked net more than Tsitsipas. Stepping closer to the line, Tsitsipas unloaded a series of topspin forehands crosscourt then reversed the rally drawing a netted backhand to break for 3-1.

Continuing to attack his shots, Tsitsipas spun his seventh ace to confirm the break for 4-1.




Driving a diagonal forehand to draw an error in the eighth game, Tsitsipas celebrated two match points with a quiet "come on." Zverev erased the first and denied the second with an audacious backhand drop shot winner slathered with side spin.

Tennis Express

Creating a shorter, sharper angle off another diagonal forehand, Tsitsipas gained a third match point and Zverev slammed a 135 mph ace to wipe it away. Zverev saved a fourth match point with a whipping wide serve.

Scraping through a near 10-minute hold, the 6'6" German stood tall holding for 3-5 and forcing the Greek to serve it out.




Hurling his fist in the air after each point, Tsitsipas saw the finish line with a forcing forehand for his fifth match point. This time, he made no mistake whipping a wide ace to seal a three hour, 37 minute battle in style.

 

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