Stefanos Tsitsipas had two reasons to celebrate on Friday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, when he beat World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the second time and also qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals in November.
The sixth-seeded Greek recovered from a slow start to record the biggest match win of his career against Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and three minutes for a place in the semi-finals.
When walking onto court, Tsitsipas did not know he’d already become the sixth player to clinch a spot at The O2 in London from 10-17 November, after Daniil Medvedev beat fellow contender Fabio Fognini. But the 21-year-old, who captured the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals crown last year, was clearly delighted. He will now look to improve upon an 0-4 record against Medvedev.
With the loss, Djokovic trails Rafael Nadal (9,225) by 1,280 points in the 2019 ATP Race To London and the battle for year-end No. 1.
“He had the high-quality tennis and he played very well after his serve. He was backing up his serve with really good and aggressive first shots in the rally,” Djokovic said. “I didn’t make him defend enough. I just gave him enough time to really dictate the play from back of the court and he deserved to win.”
Djokovic came out firing on all cylinders to win 12 of the first 14 points for a 3-0 lead. It wasn’t until the seventh game that Tsitsipas created a first break point, which saw him overhit a backhand. But it was a fast start Djokovic, who won their last match in the Mutua Madrid Open final in May, that did the damage.
Tsitsipas’ level improved, but he could not breakthrough in the second set until the final game, when Djokovic hit a double fault and then a backhand long on set point.
Tsitsipas continued to serve well, as the level of play increased in the decider. The Greek took a 3-1 lead after Djokovic hooked a forehand wide and did not look back. Two aces from Tsitsipas in the final game, which ended with a smash winner, earned him the biggest win of his career.
Tsitsipas’ previous best result came in May, when he beat No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal in the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals. He has lifted two ATP Tour titles in 2019 at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (d. Kukushkin) and at the Millennium Estoril Open (d. Cuevas).