ATP Marseille: Stefanos Tsitsipas edges Mikhail Kukushkin for second title

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ATP Marseille: Stefanos Tsitsipas edges Mikhail Kukushkin for second title

In what had been the fourth ATP final for both players, Stefanos Tsitsipas prevailed against Mikhail Kukushkin 7-5, 7-6 in just under two hours to wrap up the second ATP title and make another big step towards the top-10.

These two had played last year in Dubai as well, with Tsitsipas winning the match in three sets, escaping the same scenario today to make the perfect recovery after the early exit in Rotterdam and continue where he left in Melbourne.

The Australian Open semi-finalist fired 14 aces, dominating with his first serve and fending off three out of four break points to mount the pressure on the other side of the net. Mikhail, who will achieve a career-high ranking position on Monday game his best to stay in touch with the better-ranked opponent, losing the opening set only in game 12 and leading 5-3 in the second before Stefanos took charge to pull the break back and bring the encounter home in the tie break.

Kukushkin saved a break point in game two when Tsitsipas' backhand slice landed long, with both serving well until the very last game before the tie break. Instead of that, Stefanos stayed in contention with a smash winner, converting the first set point when Mikhail netted an easy backhand to grab the opener 7-5 in 47 minutes.

The more experienced player made a better start in set number two, firing a forehand crosscourt winner to secure a break at 2-2, saving two break points in the following game to open a 4-2 lead and earning two more chances in game seven that could have brought the set to him.

Stefanos repelled them with two good serves and he broke back in the very last moment, leveling the score at 5-5 and setting up a tie break where nothing could separate them in the opening ten points. Returning at 5-5, Tsitsipas forced an error from his rival and the title was in his hands after a forehand forced error from Mikhail in the following point, becoming the sixth multiple ATP champion born in 1995 or later after Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios, Borna Coric, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov.

Stefanos was the favorite in Marseille after that disappointing Rotterdam run and he defeated all four rivals in straight sets (Hurkacz, Stakhovsky, Goffin) to wrap up the title and move to Dubai with a boost of confidence.