Having to challenge the n.5 of the world giving it also a set of advantage: this was the substantial condition of Lorenzo Sonego today, when the match against Stefanos Tsitsipas restarted.
The suspension of the game, due to rain, had arrived at the end of the first set, in which the Greek had broken for 3-1 and had not left any chance on his own services.
When they went back on court, at lunchtime today, it was as if the game could start from scratch, even though the Italian had a heavy handicap trailing one set.
Sonego, who’s is also a salsa dancer and a musician on his spare time, is not the kind that gets scared, also because his ranking is not telling of his capabilities: he has shown several times that he can play at the same level with everyone. And so, the start was encouraging for him: a forehand miss from the Greek and a winner from “the Azzurro” marked the first strong hold from Sonego.
Tsitsipas, however, was no less: a love hold. The challenge immediately returned to the tracks that already had been seen in the first set: a battle of services, to be defended or taken away, heavy hitting and big risks because at the slightest hesitation, the rival would not be forgiving.
Tsitsipas kept holding without real issues, while on 2-2 Sonego had to save a break point: he did it this with a very angled first serve. The arena exploded, all for him. The thrill returned on 3-3: another break point saved and the cheering for the Italian rose to new levels.
On 5-4, Tsitipas felt the pressure of the loud stadium, also because Sonego had hold his game with great courage. First real chance for the Italian on return and it was a set point, but the Greek cancelled it with a peremptory forehand.
In the next round, Sonego was forced to face and save yet another break point, which was also half a match point, as he would have sent Tsitipas to serve for the match. A fantastic serve and volley cleared it, followed by an ace and a forehand winner.
After the change of ends and, on 6-5, Sonego was the one to get a second set point. Tsitsipas rescued himself as a champion and his fans roared with their light blue shirts and Greek flags. The stadium responded by chanting “Lorenzo, Lorenzo”: it was the perfect prelude to the tie-break.
Sonego did not start well but came back from 0-2 to 2-2, taking advantage of a poorly played volley by Tsitsipas.
On 3-3 the point was played with a great rally, made of deep and heavy balls, but that Sonego failed to close with a dropshot that died on the net. This was the turning point. Tsitsipas closed with a forehand that just cleared the line, after two errors by Sonego, who had gone for broke, also hitting a double fault.
Lorenzo Sonego still came out under a cascade of applauses: he challenged the world number 5 and that is not a small thing.