WHAT HAPPENED: In his first US Open main-draw appearance, 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas battled to a 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Tommy Robredo. The Greek saved a pair of set points on serve in set two and recovered from an early break in set three against a persistent Robredo to continue the momentum of his strong summer.
Any opening-match nerves were quickly settled for the Greek on Court 11, as he raced to 3-0 advantage before the first changeover. In a battle of one-handed backhands, Tsitsipas struck a sweet one at 4-2 that neatly sent his opponent into the side fencing, turning deuce into ad-in. Soon after, the set ended with an ace towards the Robredo backhand, which Tsitsipas targeted throughout the match.
Early in set two, a Tsitsipas dropshot-lob combo left Robredo with his hands on his knees for an extended breather. But when the ball was in play, the 36-year-old was full of energy, pushing his opponent to 30-all or deuce in each of the Greek’s first three service games. Each time, Tsitsipas closed the door without facing a break point.
As he piled the pressure on, Robredo punctuated key points throughout with a “Vamos!” The first time the Greek got loud was midway through set two, when he reacted to a netted backhand with a brief outburst in his native tongue.
With the day’s hot sun fully faded, the night-time crowd came alive as the set wore on towards a tiebreak. Robredo nearly levelled the match before it got there, but Tsitsipas produced the play of the match to save one of two set points at 4-5. With his back to the wall, he used all of his 6-foot-4 frame to track down a wide Robredo forehand and sky a defensive lob that landed just inside the Spaniard's baseline to turn around the point.
As Kelly Clarkson could be heard belting out her hit single, “Stronger” in the Arthur Ashe Stadium Opening Night Ceremony, Tsitsipas was the stronger man in the tiebreak. He stormed through, 7-1, and nearly wrapped up the set before the song’s closing note.
Undeterred, Robredo broke in the opening game of set three. But the US Open rookie showed veteran poise to stay the course, breaking twice himself to end the match in three.
WHAT IT MEANS: The US Open Series Breakout Performer continued his stellar summer, passing a stern test from Robredo, who qualified for his first US Open appearance since 2015. It was a dangerous matchup for the Greek against the former ATP Top 5 Spaniard, who was competing in his 15th US Open.
Tsitsipas displayed a knack for stepping up at the big moments in his Rogers Cup final run, during which he defeated four ATP Top 10 players in succession before losing to Rafael Nadal in the final. Against Robredo, he continued the trend, saving six of the seven break points he faced and easing to victory in the crucial second-set tiebreak.
After facing the veteran in Round 1, Tsitsipas will face 22-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev in Round 2. Like Tsitsipas, the Russian scored his first US Open win on Monday.
MATCH POINT: At No. 15, Tsitsipas is the highest-seeded US Open men’s singles main-draw debutant since Richard Gasquet in 2005. Then 19, the Frenchman reached the fourth round as the No. 13 seed.