Berrettini and Tsitsipas win to set up blockbuster UTS final
On the final day Of Ultimate Tennis Showdown, the afternoon session saw the league’s top four players face off in semi-final action. Matteo Berrettini beat Richard Gasquet in an enthralling match to set up a final showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas who beat David Goffin in a deceptively one-sided affair in the afternoon’s other encounter. The championship match between Berrettini and Tsitsipas will take place later on Sunday.
Gasquet came into his semi-final with a 7-2 win-loss record, whilst his opponent stood on 5-3, having missed yesterday’s action to play in Dominic Thiem’s event in Kitzbuhel. Gasquet’s two losses were a tight Sudden Death defeat at the hands of Tsitsipas and, concerningly, a 4-0 drubbing against Berrettini.
It was indeed the Italian who dominated in the first quarter, with a lethal combination of heavy hitting and precise ball placement. Gasquet cut a subdued figure at the changeover as he fell 24-8 in a vastly one-sided 10-minutes of play. Berrettini’s hammer-blow serves were the story for much of the second quarter too, as he refused to let his opponent gather any momentum. The Frenchman, however, refused to go away and as a few errors crept into Berrettini’s game at the close, “The Virtuoso” was able to pick up a well-earnt 14-12 win and level the match.
The third quarter began where the second left off with little to choose between the two players. At 5-5, Berrettini played his ‘Winner x3’ card and found two aces, all of a sudden giving himself a six-point lead. Gasquet’s own card was far less fruitful and in spite of a valiant attempt to overturn the deficit, the Italian took the quarter 16-12.
Gasquet was up 10-8 in the fourth when Berrettini again used his ‘Winner x3’ card, but this time he picked up just two, rather than six points. The Frenchman was serving at 10-10 with just a minute left on the clock and he still had his ‘Steal Serve’ card left to play as well. The advantage was certainly with Gasquet and won the first point with a deftly placed deep volley. A Berrettini error on the next gave Gasquet a two-point lead, and an ace sealed the quarter 13-10.
With the match tied at 2-2, this meant Sudden Death. Berrettini served first but pushed a relatively simple shot wide, giving Gasquet a match point opportunity. Berrettini responded well, however, coming out on top of a lengthy rally with a huge forehand that Gasquet could not return. Berrettini then had a match point of his own. Gasquet had an opportunity to pass him with a backhand down the line but he hit the ball too close to the Italian, who was able to hit a delicate volley to take the point and the match.
Tsitsipas came into his semi-final as a heavy favourite. He and Goffin played just yesterday and the Greek had been the clear winner, coming through 4-0 with a cumulative point score of 70-47. Goffin had clearly been below par on Saturday, having hit 25 unforced errors, but even so, he came into the match with a 5-4 record compared to Tsitsipas’ league leading 8-1.
The opening quarter was very tight right up until the closing stages but Goffin played a couple of poor points when serving at 12-10 down and Tsitsipas came out of the quarter a 15-11 winner. The opener lacked fireworks but it did suggest that this may prove to be far closer than their previous encounter.
Goffin’s coach, former Australian Open champion Tomas Johansson, called a very early coaching time out in the second and suggest that the Belgian attempt to make heavier contact with the ball to counteract the spin from Tsitsipas’ dangerous forehand. Goffin, however, struggled to hit the ball at all with “The Greek God’s” precision hitting earning him a significant lead by the halfway point. Goffin did close the deficit but he ran out of time and Tsitsipas won the quarter 13-11 for a 2-0 lead.
The third quarter followed a similar pattern to the first, with the score staying tight until the death. Tied 10-10 and with 90 seconds to on the clock, Tsitsipas still had his ‘Winner x3’ card but he could do no better than a 1-1 split, giving Goffin a chance to serve things out. He won the first but Tsitsipas painted the lines twice on the next point to make the score 12-12 with a forehand winner. Serving for the deciding point, a seemingly agitated Tsitsipas hit a huge forehand that Goffin could only float back into the net, and the match was his, 3-0.
The final between Berrettini and Tsitsipas will be held later today at 21:00 (BST).
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