Tsitsipas fights past Zverev in five sets to reach French Open final

Stefanos Tsitsipas battles past Alexander Zverev in five sets to reach his first Grand Slam final. Tsitsipas awaits either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s French Open championship match.

Tsitsipas at Roland-Garros 2021 Panoramic

TSITSIPAS (No 5) d. ZVEREV (No 6) 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3

  • Main information: Stefanos Tsitsipas reached his first Grand Slam final with a five-set victory over Alexander Zverev.
  • You will also learn: The Greek became the first player from his country to reach a slam final.
  • Why you should read this article: You will see how everything hinged on the start of the fifth set.

If Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal is the main course in the French Open semifinals, the fans at Court Philippe-Chatrier had to wait a long time to get what they came to see.

Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Alexander Zverev in Friday afternoon’s first men’s singles semi proved to be a lengthy appetizer, a five-setter that could end up bringing France’s 11:00 pm curfew into play during the Djokovic-Nadal match. But Tsitsipas won’t concern himself with what happens later on Friday; right now he is just happy to be in his first Grand Slam final after outlasting Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Once seemingly on the way to a routine win, Tsitsipas ended up requiring three hours and 37 minutes to erase the demons of last year’s five-set loss to Novak Djokovic in the Roland-Garros semi-finals.

“All I can think of is my roots — from a really small place outside Athens,” Tsitsipas said during his on-court interview. “My dream was to play here; to play on the big stage of Roland-Garros one day.”

Now he will play on the biggest stage of all, in the final against either world No 1 Djokovic or 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal.

But it wasn’t easy. After taking the first two sets, Tstisipas stumbled in the third and fourth. Zverev cut down on his double-faults and especially improved his return game, getting far more first serves back in play. That allowed the world No 6 to storm back and force a fifth set.

Alexander Zverev at Roland-Garros 2021

A crucial moment in the decider — in fact the crucial moment — came right at the start, when Tsitsipas fell behind 0-40 on serve in the first game. He dug out of the triple-break point hole, however, and won five points in a row to hold. From there Tsitsipas took care of his serve en route to a 5-2 advantage. Serving to stay in the tournament, Zverev fought off four match points with some spectacularly clutch play. The German managed to hold, thus putting pressure back on his opponent.

Tsitsipas, though, handled the most important service game of his career in expert fashion. He held to 15, capitalizing on his fifth match point with his eighth ace.

“It was nerve-wracking,” the 22-year-old assessed. “It was so intense. I came back; I stayed alive. I had the crowd with me; they were behind me; they were giving me their energy. There was still hope (after the fourth set). There were still opportunities for me to go out there and fight…. This win means a lot. This win is the most important one of my career so far.”

For Zverev, he was trying to reach his second major final. The 24-year-old successfully came back from two sets down in the 2020 US Open semis against Pablo Carreno Busta before losing the title match from two sets up against Dominic Thiem.

“Today if I break him the first game of the fifth set, maybe the outcome would be different,” Zverev reflected. “I didn’t. But I can’t go down two sets to love against a top player like Stefanos and expect to win every single time. I’ve done it at the US Open; I’ve done it before. But the most important thing to come out of this match are the first two sets. I [have] to play better in those.”

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