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Stefanos Tsitsipas sailed through his Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon opener, knocking out American Tommy Paul, 6-1, 6-4.
The No. 2 seed played near-flawless tennis as he makes the most of a last chance to prepare for Roland Garros, securing victory in 75 minutes on Center Court.
Tsitsipas leads world No. 1 Novak Djokovic on the FedEx ATP Race to Turin after a Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo and a runner-up finish in Barcelona, but despite a full slate of clay-court tournaments, the Greek opted to add Lyon to his itinerary ahead of the second major tournament of 2021.
"I don’t feel exhausted, and I wanted to come to Lyon to test myself this week," he told ATPTour.com on Tuesday. "It’s another opportunity to show how far I can go and play more matches on clay."
A semifinalist for the first time at Roland Garros last fall, the world No. 5 was likely eager to forget a narrow defeat to Djokovic last week at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Taking a wildcard into Lyon, he enjoyed a first-round bye before opening against Paul, who put down a comprehensive victory over a former world No. 5, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The American(cam norrie) is a former junior French Open champion and, ranked just shy of his career-high ranking of No. 51, surely aimed to improve from his only previous meeting with Tsitsipas—a 6-3, 7-5 defeat at the Citi Open on hard-courts in 2019.
Still, the No. 2 seed showed no signs of fatigue early on as he raced through the opening set, winning 16 of the final 21 points after a protracted second service game.
Looking stronger to start the second set, Paul battled through a marathon service game and saved three break points—one by outrallying the Greek star with a thudding forehand winner—but Tsitsipas proved too strong, earning a fourth opportunity off a Paul double fault. As Paul approached the net, he could only watch as Tsitsipas sent a screaming backhand passing shot up the line.
Another backhand pass earned him a chance at a double-break lead but Paul capitalized off a forehand miss and pulled off some impressive winners of his own and stay in the match.
Dropping just four points on serve in the second set, Tsitsipas was unshakeable at the finish line, easing over the finish line and into the quarterfinals when Paul powered a forehand beyond the baseline.
Awaiting him in the last eight is Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka, a former rising star who is looking to come into his own after a debilitating knee delayed his transition onto the ATP circuit. Nishioka opened play on Thursday with a dramatic upset of No. 5 seed Gaël Monfils, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2).
“I felt in good shape from the beginning of the tournament. I am proud of today’s match, I knew it would be a difficult one against Cameron who has been showing great tennis this week,” Tsitsipas said on court. “He has been winning against good players and showing what the left hand can do on clay. It was not an easy match today, I had to handle the nerves and I am proud of my performance and the way I stayed focussed towards my goal.”