No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated No. 28 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on a humid night next to Hard Rock Stadium in the third round of the Miami Open.
To start the match, Tsitsipas walked in to the nearly empty arena and over to his bench pulling out three water bottles, a tell-tale sign of the 78-degree South Florida heat. Throughout the match Tsitsipas’s sweat dripped from his flowing locks and yellow headband to his white Adidas shoes. Nishikori, on the other hand, appeared conditioned to the climate after training in Florida since he was young.
This match is the second meeting for the pair. In 2018, Nishikori, then ranked fourth in the world, won in straight sets at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championship quarterfinals.
This time, however, the odds were in favor of rising tennis talent Tsitsipas, who has advanced to quarters or better at all four events this year.
The 22-year-old took control early in the match, dominating Nishikori the first set 6-3.
In the second set, a valiant effort from the veteran tallies a set win for Nishikori 6-3. The Japanese native capitalized on taking the ball early, forcing Tsitsipas to make errors off the frame of his racket and take the majority of his shots off balance.
Before set three, Nishikori takes a short trip to the locker room but leaves behind his momentum when he returns to the deciding set.
Tsitsipas emphasized the importance of finishing strong, saying, “[I was] always pumped [and] willing to put more and more work towards the end of the match, and that made the difference.”
Clearly, it did. Tsitsipas quickly led 3-0.
The variance of the two athletes’ endurance and attitude was vital in Tsitsipas’s victory — Nishikori drastically faded, dropping 8 mph on his second serves, losing long rallies, and ultimately coming up short of the 6-foot-4 superstar.
Tsitsipas is thrilled to advance in the tournament, representing Greece at a high level. When asked his thoughts on putting his home country on the map for tennis, he smiled, saying, “Hell yeah.” Tsitsipas is embracing the opportunity to be a trailblazer, aiming to create history and see Greece known not only their soccer players but tennis players, too.
Tsitsipas is set to play Italian Lorenzo Sonego Tuesday, March 30th, at 7 p.m. in the fourth round of the Miami Open.