A game that on paper should have had more promise than was witnessed. Tsitsipas was powerful and considered while Cuevas seemed nonchalant and relaxed meaning the fifth seed took the match 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
The pair are no strangers to one another in recent times. The Greek international was 2-0 up in the head to head matchup heading into Hamburg last week when Tsitsipas defeated Cuevas in two sets.
So far in the French Open, Tsitsipas had to battle back from two sets down against Jaume Munar to win 3-2, while Cuevas was untroubled in the first-round defeating Henri Laaksonen in four sets.
With Cuevas ranking seventh in active clay court titles and Tsitsipas’ win/loss percentage showing clay is his most successful surface, this could have been an almighty matchup, but it was lost in the sun and the rain in Paris.
Anyone would have thought coming out of a five-set match just two days before that the Greek would have started slowest out of the two, this was not the case. Tsitsipas confronted the heavy groundstrokes that come with the Uruguayan’s artillery and challenged Cuevas shot for shot from the baseline.
From the start it was evident the Uruguayan’s tactic was to push Tsitsipas onto his backhand into the deep court and to advance from there, but the Greek international identified this and broke Cuevas’ first service game of the match.
The Greek then proceeded to expand his range of shots particularly using his drop shot to move Cuevas around a slippery clay court. His serving looked to have made big improvements from his match against Muran previously. His efficient use of the dropshot and serve combined took him to a 3-0 lead.
Cuevas continued to gift points via unforced errors which meant it was tough for the Uruguayan to build any momentum in the match.
The 34-year-old struggled to keep up with the consistency of Tsitsipas’s ground strokes. The Greek international seemed to be leaning more into his backhand, giving it more power, which Cuevas found tough to return
Another clever drop-shot from Tsitsipas secured the fifth consecutive game in the first set. Despite winning a game, the Uruguayan looked have been driven back beyond the baseline on multiple occasions by the Greek which forced him back into his shell for much of the first set.
Tsitsipas wasn’t going to make the same mistake his opponent did last week. The Greek came out with the same explosiveness we saw throughout the first set. At this point Cuevas was only winning 20% of his points behind his second serve and 40% behind his first.
The 22-year-old was attacking the Cuevas’ serve on the front foot and managed to break Cuevas taking the first two games of the second set.
The Uruguayan looked dispirited and frustrated but managed to pull a game back. Cuevas had only won 3 points off the Tsitsipas serve so far. However, a couple of driven forehand winners down the line gave the fans something to cheer about.
The Greek proceeded to take the power back into his own hands by adding more of a kick to his second serve which proved effective in pinning Cuevas back further towards the baseline.
Against the odds, Cuevas again managed to find another gear and started to match the quality of groundstrokes Tsitsipas was performing in the first set. The Uruguayan broke back to make it 3-3.
Cuevas’ resilience really started to show as he saved 3 break points in the next game but couldn’t prevent Tsitsipas’ range of shots and rally consistency.
The 22-year-old turned up the urgency again and took the next game to make it 5-3 in the set. Cuevas started to force the ball more onto Tsitsipas’ backhand which startled the Greek international.
However, another Cuevas unforced error off a Tsitsipas forehand meant the 22-year-old took the second set 6-4, putting him 2 sets up.
The Greek was doing everything to ensure he had this game wrapped up in 3 sets. Tsitsipas resulted back to the drop shot which proved too much work for a tired-looking Cuevas.
Cuevas continued to produce more unforced errors and Tsitsipas, much like the first two sets, took the opening two games.
The 34-year-old looked lost for ideas and attempted to return back to the drop shot which had been so efficient for his counterpart, but he couldn’t find the same execution. Cuevas drove the ball out of play and the Greek took another game.
Tsitsipas seemed to be enjoying himself on court as he shuffled through his vast collection of shots. Another delicate drop shot meant he took another game. 4-0.
At this point, the Uruguayan was sitting on 28 unforced errors. The 22-year-old continued to look hungry. He got a lucky bounce of the net to make it 5-1.
With the game coming to a close, Tsitsipas continued to show his quality. His tremendous wingspan and agility meant a push down the line took him into the next round with flying colours.
Pablo Cuevas will now have to head back to the drawing board and look to continue his success on the ATP tour to win his 7th title. Stefanos Tsitsipas will face Aljaž Bedene in the third round of the competition as he aims to claim his first major tournament win.