Tennis: Federer shows off new line of Uniqlo caps
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World No 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas has suggested that he will be looking to push Rafael Nadal all the way at this year’s Madrid Open, with both players looking to fine-tune their skills on clay as the French Open approaches. The pair played out a thrilling Barcelona Open final last month, with Nadal coming out on top after three hours and 38 minutes.
The experienced Spaniard was tested to his limit by Tsitsipas, who was playing in his third final since the turn of the year.
The 22-year-old earned a championship point but failed to take the opportunity, allowing Nadal to claw his way back into contention before taking the decisive third set to clinch a record 12th title in Barcelona.
Despite the result, Tsitsipas has been in top form as of late, winning the Monte-Carlo Masters at the beginning of the clay-court swing and establishing himself as a dark horse for the upcoming Grand Slam at Roland Garros.
He also knocked Nadal out of the Australian Open back in February, winning in five sets at the quarter-final stage in Melbourne.
Before doing battle in Paris, the pair will be looking to prepare in the best possible way by winning the next available title in Madrid.
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Tsitsipas was a beaten finalist in 2019, eventually falling at the hands of Novak Djokovic, before last year’s edition was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Greek hopeful has hinted that he will be out for revenge on hot favourite Nadal ahead of this year’s tournament, after failing to take his chances to seal a famous win in Barcelona.
He told the ATP website that reaching another final and moving up the rankings will be the priority target, claiming that he is due a reward for his impressive performances in recent months.
“My expectations, I won’t lie to you, [are] to come as close to my result [in 2019], which was the final,” said Tsitsipas.
“I’m really pumped for this week, for the next week as well. I feel like I’m getting close.
“I feel like I can create opportunities and maybe get to No. 4. It’s something that has been in my mind.
“I don’t think there’s something wrong with [that], mainly because I’ve been working hard, I’ve been putting a lot of work in. I feel like that’s my opportunity to do something different.”
Tsitsipas will feature in the bottom half of the draw for the Madrid Open alongside second seed Daniil Medvedev, while Nadal is joined by Thiem in the top half.
Reflecting on last month’s Barcelona Open final, Tsitsipas stressed that he has taken a lot from the experience, suggesting that a different approach would have turned the result on its head.
“Probably that I will have to go for more at certain times during a match and not wait as much for him to give me something or wait for an opportunity from his side,” Tsitsipas said.
“Sometimes I feel like I was too passive, thinking about it now. I could have risked a bit more.
“I could have probably done a few more unpredictable things that could have led to something different.”
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