Play being backed up due to rain was not a problem for Stefanos Tsitsipas, as the 20-year-old Greek defeated two Italian opponents in straight sets on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals in Rome, including a late night win over world number 12 Fabio Fognini.
Tsitsipas, seeded eighth at the Italian Open and currently at a career-high ranking of number seven in the world, received a bye in the first round. Due to rain, he did not play his second round match until Thursday afternoon. He comfortably defeated 17-year-old Italian wildcard Jannik Sinner (world number 263) 6-3 6-2 to advance to the third round.
There, he would face Italian number one Fabio Fognini, the tenth seed in the tournament. Tsitsipas had won their only previous meeting in straight sets, though this was their first meeting on clay. Additionally, Fognini came into the match in great form, as he is currently at a career-high ranking and won nine of his last ten matches, including winning the Masters 1000 tournament in Monte Carlo. Furthermore, he had the home crowd support. Given that he was the last remaining Italian (male or female) in the tournament, thousands of boisterous fans packed the Stadio Pietrangeli to cheer him on.
Tsitsipas let a 4-1 lead slip away in the first set, as the Italian came back to level the set at 4-4. Despite that, Tsitsipas kept his cool and was able hold serve and then break Fognini in the subsequent game to take the first set 6-4. In the second set, the Greek youngster won four of the last five games from 2-2, to take it 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 event for just the third time in his career. Tsitsipas has now won 10 of his last 11 matches.
Things will not get easier for Tsitsipas, as he will now face world number three Roger Federer of Switzerland in the quarterfinals. The two players have played each other twice before, with each winning once (though Federer also won an unofficial match over Tsitsipas at the Hopman Cup in January). This will be their first match against each other on clay. Federer barely scraped past Croatia’s Borna Coric in the previous round, saving two match points to win 2-6 6-4 7-6.
Tsitsipas also competed in doubles in Rome alongside Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands. The Greek-Dutch duo fell in the first round to Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco by a score of 6-3 6-2.
by Andrew Stamas