Stefanos Tsitsipas made the perfect start to his Australian Open title bid on Tuesday, as he cruised past Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena.
The fifth seed produced a dominant serving performance, winning 82 per cent of his first-serve points (27/33) to overcome the 2009 quarter-finalist in one hour and 32 minutes. Tsitsipas limited his opponent to six winners and did not face a break point throughout the match.
Tsitsipas has won all three singles matches he has contested this year in straight sets. Prior to the Australian Open, the 22-year-old represented Greece for the second straight year at the ATP Cup. Tsitsipas claimed a 6-3, 7-5 win against Alex de Minaur and beat Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 7-5 to help his nation finish second in Group B. The five-time ATP Tour titlist’s victory over Simon will only add to his confidence as he chases a maiden Grand Slam title this fortnight.
“Starting a Grand Slam can be stressful sometimes. You don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what shape you are [in],” said Tsitsipas. “I played a few matches at the ATP Cup. It doesn’t really determine if I am [in] top shape. I felt like I needed more matches.
“The more matches I get, I think contributes a lot to my confidence and I think confidence has made me win a lot of matches. Without it, I don’t know where I would be. I see [confidence] as something that I need, as an additive to my game and something that is going to contribute to a lot of important victories for my career.”
Tsitsipas started strongly on Rod Laver Arena, as he dropped only five points in the first five games of the match. The Greek held serve comfortably and attacked with his forehand to gain back-to-back breaks en route to a 5-0 lead.
After wrapping up the first set, Tsitsipas increased his grip on the match with two more service breaks in the second set. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion continued to dictate rallies with his forehand and rushed Simon with regular visits to the net. Through the opening two sets, Tsitispas won 72 per cent of his net points (13/18).
Simon had struggled with double faults in key moments during the first two sets, and that trend continued in the third set. Tsitsipas stepped in on his return and attacked Simon’s forehand to earn three more breaks and his spot in the second round.
“My level is good so far,” said Tsitsipas, in an on-court interview. “I feel good with my service games and I think I am returning really well. I have a clear picture of where I want to return and start the point, so I think I get the upper hand from the very beginning of the rally, which gives me a lot of confidence.
“I know I can press a lot with my forehand and also create damage on my backhand side, with my down-the-line backhand, which is my favourite shot. It has been giving me a lot of points and once it is there, I honestly feel very comfortable playing anyone.”
Tsitsipas will face Thanasi Kokkinakis for a place in the third round. The home favourite defeated Soonwoo Kwon 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 on Court 3. The 24-year-old landed 19 aces and converted six of seven break points to defeat the South Korean in one hour and 33 minutes.
“We have played a lot. We have practised a lot,” said Tsitsipas. “I have known him for years. He has struggled with injuries in the past and now he is back. I feel like he is playing well. It is a serious match. He is playing on home soil as well, so that is something that I have in the back of my head when I go out there on the court… I have had more experience on the Tour than him and I can use that in my favour but, in a way, I feel like he doesn’t really have much to lose. He is playing in front of a crowd that loves him and he has played some really good matches here.”
Borna Coric earned his place in the second round with a 6-3, 7-6(5), 7-5 victory against Guido Pella. The 22nd seed, who reached the fourth round in 2019, ripped 52 winners to earn his third win of the year (3-1). Coric will next face Mackenzie McDonald, who beat 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours and 12 minutes.