As per his season so far, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ time in Rotterdam was a bit of a huff and puff.
It didn’t stop him getting his first win in Rotterdam having struggled in the past but it was a struggle and the match against Aliaz Bedene amplified the issues right now for the Greek.
First of all nothing can be taken away from Bedene, I thought the Slovak played a strong match from the beginning to the end. He was so impressive on serve, he hit the spot time and time again and went toe to toe in forehand rallies with Stefanos who struggled.
I thought he was pretty short on ideas. We know when he gets his serve in he looks for the forehand and this is fine but if he isn’t finding the depth and the width then it was a struggle to take the game to Aljaz.
Something I found problematic in the match the fact that Stefanos struggled to read situations and adapt to them.
His backhand got targeted and it’s one of them where coming up the court it can be brutal but if you get peppered in that corner on the one-handed shot you can’t get out. I’ve seen it done hundreds of times before, one that springs to mind is Federer v Dimitrov in Rotterdam a few years back and the return on serve from Federer went into Dimitrov’s backhand time and time again.
Why is that? It’s difficult to then push forward off the backhand and use it from a metre of so behind the baseline to push your forward and the opponent back.
I would expect a little bit more variety from Stefanos. The forehands sent by Bedene weren’t all speeding through the court so a sliced backhand could be used more. We did see it and he changed the pace up but didn’t do it enough.
It was a confusing performance. First point of the match he went for a serve and volley (ball was called fault, so didn’t count) but never visited that again which was surprising. He created chances and should have taken them in Bedene’s first five games seeing five break opportunities and converting none. He then went on to not even create a break point.
There was a wild 10 minutes or so at 5-5 in the first set where Tsitsipas lost 12/13 points and it unravelled from there.
I said about Tsitsipas not adapting to the situation and he should have played a smarter game and a lot of it came from his issues returning Aljaz’ first serve on the deuce side in particular…
This is where Aljaz’ first serve landed in (red dots are aces)
He rarely served on the deuce side out-wide. When he did he got it in but he turned more to the serve down the t which is his bread and butter as a right handed player. He doesn’t have a kick serve so I couldn’t understand Stefanos continued to cover that side of the court and then scramble to the middle of the court.
This one below confused me. Bedene serving for the match but he continued to cover the serve out wide, I didn’t get it.
The block return isn’t bad when you’ve had time to prepare for it, Tsitsipas at this stage is stretching and it is pretty straight forward from here for Bedene. He served very well and this big serve down the T with a block return will sit centrally for the put away. In this situation to cover both as a precaution is ideal but with a slightly deeper position on the court and shifted slightly to the left.
It will be interesting to see where Tsitsipas goes from here, there is work to do. Following such a big win to end 2019 there was going to be a dip to begin this year, it is natural. He is only 21 but knowing how focused and determined he is he will want this patch of form improved quickly.