Singing Tsitsipas sees of Popyrin to extend lead in UTS standings

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Stefanos Tsitsipas channelled his inner Justin Timberlake, in fact One Republic, during a change of ends in UTS as he cruised past Alexei Popyrin 17-12, 20-9, 19-8, 15-16.

The Greek God’s game was also on song as the World No.6 recorded his fifth win in six matches to take a commanding lead at the top of the standings, ensuring qualification to the knock-out phases.

The match was rightly billed as ‘The Mouratoglou Showdown’, both Tsitsipas and Popyrin products of the famous academy. And it was also an encounter with much riding on it, Popyrin hoping to join his fellow academy player on four victories in denying the Greek a fifth.

Both players have proven adept at getting to grips with the exciting new format of speed tennis, in particular with the vitally important use of ‘UTS Cards’ of which they are allowed two per ten-minute quarter.

Despite standing 6ft5 and possessing a formidable serve, The Sniper has been belligerent in sticking with ‘Steal Serve’ and ‘-1 Serve’, rather than ‘Winners count x3′, perhaps an unusual choice given his penchant for hitting aces and forehand winners.

It was a slow start from the Australian, encouraging him to play his ‘Steal Serve’ card first and edging him back into the quarter, levelling matters at 11-11 with a sniper-like backhand that painted the line.

Tsitsipas remains on song to extend lead at top of standings

But The Greek God is not perching serenely atop the standings for nothing, and with the clock running down, he saw out a tight opener 17-12 with a Winners x3 ace on the final point.

“Fantastic day, fantastic night, going well so far,” said Tsitsipas at the change. “I like night sessions because I’m a night owl anyways. I’m a night person. I like doing my job during the night. I’m surprised it came so close to the super tie break because I started very well, was leading by a lot of points and somehow he managed to come back, my momentum slipped away and wasn’t there when I needed it.”

If Tsitsipas’ momentum deserted him towards the end of the opening quarter, his mind was certainly on the game at the start of the second, quickly establishing a healthy advantage. It left The Sniper playing catch-up and even with two cards left up his sleeve, the clock was not on the Australian’s side and Tsitsipas romped home 20-9 after a clinical quarter.

Such was Tsitsipas’ buoyant mood at the end of the second quarter, he chose rather to break into Justin Timberlake song in reference to UTS commentator Pete Odgers’ supposed resemblance to the famous pop singer. At least in his own opinion!

And the Greek God certainly started the third quarter on song, his groundstrokes also hitting all the right notes as he dominated a now demoralised Popyrin to seal victory with a 19-8 quarter.

Although Popyrin had lost the match, there was still much to play for, with qualification still very in the balance with three matches remaining and every set possibly vital in final count-up.

It was credit to The Sniper that he remained focused on the one target he had left, hanging in the final quarter to take it on the final point, and you never know how important that may be to the Australian who remains sixth in the table, behind Feliciano Lopez.

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