Stefanos Tsitsipas snapped his first-round hoodoo at Wimbledon when he ended Swiss qualifier Alexander Ritschard’s first Tour-level match with a 7-6(1) 6-3 5-7 6-4 win on Tuesday.
The Greek fourth seed had perished in the opening round on his last two visits to the All England Club and on paper it looked like that run would end when he was drawn against a 188th-ranked opponent who had never played on the main ATP Tour.
While Tsitsipas has chalked up a 41-19 win-loss record at the slams, a 228-108 career record on the men’s circuit and has won 40 of 53 matches contested in 2022, Ritschard’s corresponding figures stood at 0-0, 0-0 and 0-0.
Yet for 15 magical minutes, the Wimbledon newcomer was enjoying a day to remember as he produced some blazing winners to surge into a 4-1 lead.
That left Tsitsipas gesturing wildly to himself and muttering in the direction of his racket, as if to say ‘what the hell are you doing man?’
That pep-talk to himself did the trick as he went on to win four games on the trot and could have made it five if he had converted any of the five set points he earned on Ritschard’s serve at 5-4.
The Swiss’s survival skills, however, deserted him in the tiebreak and he got walloped 7-1.
When Tsitsipas wriggled out of another spot of bother at 2-1 up in the second set, with his 28-year-old opponent failing to convert any of the six break points he earned in a game which stretched to 20 points and seven deuces, it seemed like the outcome was a forgone conclusion.
Yet at 5-5 in the third set, Ritschard conjured a break out of nowhere and extended his Court One outing by blasting a forehand down the line to take the contest into a fourth set.
But that is where Ritschard’s Wimbledon journey ended as a forehand whipped wide in the 10th game handed Tsitsipas victory just after 9pm local time.
“I have to congratulate Alexander for an incredible performance and we’ll see more of him,” the 23-year-old Greek said on court after booking a second round date with Australian Jordan Thompson.
“I’m glad we finished before the sun went down. Great to be playing on the grass … it’s great to be playing at Wimbledon.”
With Swiss eight-times champion Roger Federer missing from the singles draw for the first time since 1998 as he continues to recover from knee surgery, compatriots Stan Wawrinka, Henri Laaksonen, Marc-Andrea Huesler and Ritschard were tasked with flyinf the country’s flag at the championships alive.
Ritschard’s defeat, however, ended Switzerland’s challenge in the men’s draw in the first round.