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Broady, Naomi

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Some players take small steps over a long period to make an impact on the ATP Tour’s biggest stages. Stefanos Tsitsipas made one giant leap in 2018.The Greek star arrived at the Rogers Cup as the No. 27 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Tsitsipas had never previously competed in Toronto, but he quickly made himself at home, going on a memorable run at the ATP Masters 1000 event.“The support was amazing. I felt like I was playing in Athens. I felt like I was playing in my hometown. [There were] so many Greek fans,” Tsitsipas told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot. “It was just the energy I received in every single match I played there. Everyone was with me and it gave me a lot of strength. It gave me a lot of belief. It helped me do very, very well there. It was the week of my life.”Tsitsipas became the youngest player to beat four Top 10 opponents at a single tournament since the ATP Tour was established in 1990, reaching his first Masters 1000 final. Entering the week, he had only made one tour-level championship match.“I’m really hungry for more,” Tsitsipas said.In the Round of 32, Tsitsipas upset then-World No. 8 Dominic Thiem. A resurgent Novak Djokovic, then-World No. 10, was next.“I was actually not paying attention that much to if I was facing Djokovic or whoever else. I was concentrating on my game,” Tsitsipas said. “I knew that if I would start thinking too much, then it wouldn’t be good for my game, so I said, ‘Keep playing, keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing it well.’”Tsitsipas emphatically closed out the Serbian with a forehand winner, triumphing 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3.“That match point, I couldn’t believe it, what had just happened,” Tsitsipas said. “It was one of the best victories I'd had.”Alexander Zverev led Tsitsipas 6-3, 5-3 in the quarter-finals, but the Greek used the crowd’s energy to rally and make the semi-finals. It was an example of Tsitsipas’ fighting spirit.“I kept believing I could do it,” he said. “I came back into the match and it seemed like nothing could stop me.”That attitude remained in the semi-finals against Kevin Anderson. The South African veteran held match point in their final-set tie-break, but Tsitsipas never gave up. Instead, he became even more courageous, crushing a backhand winner to stay in the match before ousting the World No. 6 to make the championship match. Standing across the net was top seed Rafael Nadal.“I lost to Rafa in Barcelona. It is not easy to come back and play another final against Rafa,” Tsitsipas said. “I was a bit nervous, thinking too much, something I wasn’t doing before that.”Nadal served for the title at 6-2, 5-4, but Tsitsipas broke back and held a set point to force a decider. The Spaniard saved that opportunity with a drop shot that trickled over the net cord, closing out his victory 6-2, 7-6(4).Although Tsitsipas fell short of lifting the trophy, it was a confidence-building moment for the 19-year-old Greek. From there, he won the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals and has climbed as high as World No. 5.

Has ‘The Big Three’ already morphed back into ‘The Big Four’ and we have not yet recognised it?Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer headline the Big Three in tennis. Andy Murray was also a part of this elite group in his prime before injuries interrupted his career. But is there is a fourth player that statistically already measures up?Yes, Dominic Thiem.An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Thiem’s body of work since the start of the 2019 season identifies the Austrian is already standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. And, in some metrics, is already leading the quartet.Since the beginning of 2019, Thiem has more ATP Head2Head wins in this grouping of four players than any other.2019-2020 ATP Head2Head1.Thiem = 7 wins / 3 losses2.Djokovic = 6 wins / 4 losses3.Nadal = 3 wins / 5 losses4.Federer = 2 wins / 6 losses2019-2020 Thiem vs. Big ThreeThiem vs. Federer = 3 wins / 0 lossesThiem vs. Nadal = 2 wins / 1 lossThiem vs. Djokovic = 2 wins / 2 lossesTotal = 7 wins / 3 lossesWith two ATP Tour Masters 1000 series events looming (Cincinnati and Rome) as well as the US Open and Roland Garros, Thiem has all the tools to take titles in any of those events. To better understand Thiem’s strengths, you need to look no further than three recent victories over Djokovic, Federer and Nadal.2019 Nitto ATP Finals, Round Robin: Thiem d. Djokovic 67(5) 63 76(5)Thiem throttled Djokovic with a forehand barrage from start to finish. Thiem average hitting forehands at a break-neck 83mph, which was much faster than Djokovic’s average of 73mph. In the third set, Thiem upped the ante to 85mph while Djokovic dropped down slightly to average 72mph on his forehand wing. Thiem hit Djokovic off the court. That looks good on the resume of anyone wanting to expand the Big Three to the Big Four. Thiem said post-match that it was maybe the best match he has ever played. Thiem not only crushed forehands, but he did so from a vastly superior court position. Thiem hit 30 per cent of his forehands from inside the baseline, while Djokovic managed just 16 per cent. Thiem is widely renowned for playing deep in the court on clay, but he perfectly adjusted his court position to the indoor hard court at the O2 arena. Thiem only hit 22 per cent of forehands from further than two metres behind the baseline, while Djokovic was double that at 44 per cent. The following two Hawk-Eye pictures clearly illustrate Thiem’s superior court position when hitting forehands.2019 Madrid, Quarter-final: Thiem d. Federer 36 76(11) 64Thiem saved two match points at 7/8 and 9/10 in the second set tie-break and broke Federer twice in the third set, while also being broken once. In the opening set, Thiem’s second serve return speed was 70 mph. That jumped to 75 mph in the second set and a scorching 82 mph in the third set. Federer, by comparison, only averaged 69 mph returning second serves in the third set. Federer didn’t lose a second serve point in the first set, but only won 30 per cent in the third set. Thiem took a while to wind up, but ended up blowing right by Federer at the finish line by really attacking the second serve.2020 Australian Open, Quarter-final: Thiem d. Nadal 76(3) 76(4) 46 76(6)Thiem went toe-to-toe with Nadal from the back of the court and beat him at his own game. Baseline Points WonThiem = 50% (85/170)Nadal = 43% (73/169)The average rally length was 4.2 shots, and there were 36 lactic-acid-inducing rallies of nine shots or longer. Thiem remarkably won double the amount of points as Nadal in this metric, winning 24 to 12.Thiem was also far superior at net, winning 76 per cent (25/33) to Nadal’s 62 per cent (21/34).Thiem is beating the Big Three at their own game. He is currently No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. He has the power, consistency, and mental fortitude to take the final two steps when tennis finally resumes.- Hawk-Eye graphics courtesy ATP Media

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