Tsitsipas Retires Against Rune In Turin After Just Three Games, 17 Minutes

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: Giampiero Sposito/FITP)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 14, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

As action resumed at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin on Tuesday afternoon, with Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune of Denmark each looking to garner their first win in Green Group play following their respective disappointing losses to Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic on Sunday, little did anyone realize that the match be over so quickly. After all, neither Tsitsipas nor Rune barely broke a sweat after playing just 23 points.

However, in a stunning ending, World No. 6 Tsitsipas retired after just three games — lasting a total of 17 minutes — trailing 1-2, due to a medical reason. Later, in his press conference, it was clarified that Tsitsipas, who won the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals title, had suffered a back injury.

World No. 8 Rune received credit for a win in the Green Group and improved to 1-1, while Tsitsipas dropped to 0-2. Tsitsipas announced in his press conference he would drop out of the competition and be replaced by first alternate Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who played an exhibition set against second alternate Taylor Fritz of the United States, mostly for the benefit of the fans. Hurkacz will finish group play against Djokovic on Thursday.

In a court side interview with Tennis Channel shortly after Tsitsipas retired, Rune was asked if he had any idea about the seriousness of Tsitsipas’ condition beforehand and whether he would be facing him or Hurkacz. “I’m heard rumors that there was pain in his elbow before he played Sinner. I saw him and saw he was in pain,” he said. “Honestly, I was preparing for a full match. I didn’t know, I didn’t hear anything before the match. Obviously, we could all see that his serve speed in the first game was not normal. It’s tough for the crowd. I wish him to get well as fast as possible. …

“For me to get a rest day, it’s not so bad, actually. But, of course, I wish I could have finished the match. It is what it is.”

Later, in his press conference, Rune recollected the surprising turn of events. “Yeah, obviously I prepared the match as it was going to be a normal match. I didn’t know anything before starting,” he said. “I was just ready to compete and build on the level that I did on Sunday. I was expecting a different match obviously, but another tough one.

“I saved two break points in the first game, so it actually started off very, very tough. Again, unfortunate to end this way.”

Before Tuesday, the 20-year-old Dane had won both of his previous meetings against Tsitsipas. He beat the Greek star twice in 2022, at Roland Garros and in Stockholm.

After losing his opening to Sinner on Sunday, Tsitsipas, 25, said of Rune: “Every single opponent is at their best right now. I’m not entering the court thinking that I might get a chance or an opportunity or having someone under-play of what their potential is.

“Holger has been pretty good against me in some of the encounters and matches that we’ve had against each other. I believe that he’s a tough competitor and someone that fights really hard on the court. Whether he’s up or down, he will not give up.”

During his press conference after the retirement, Tsitsipas apologized to his fans and to the crowd that came to support him. “I’m really gutted that I wasn’t able to finish the match. It’s a shame also not to give that spot to someone else to at least try and do something with it,” he said. “My doctors and the countless visits that I had in last few days suggested that I play, gave me the green light to go and try it for myself, so…

“Unfortunately, I felt terrible on the court. I did what I could do in the best possible way to be ready and fit for this match, but it didn’t work out for me.

“I hate retiring from matches. I’m not the kind of person that likes leaving mid match. It kills me not to be able to finish this tournament, the one that I’ve prepped for so long, made sure that I’m completely fit to perform at my best and show my capacities as a player. …

“For me, it’s important to be fit and feel good with my back. The pain was very big. I’ve gone through pain during matches in the past, and I endured pain, but this was clearly too much to handle. I had to take the difficult decision to do what I did.

“I felt it at the second game of the match. I actually felt it in the warm-up with my serve. Warming up on my serve, I felt very irritated and lots of pain hitting me on my back. I kind of knew at that time that I might not be able to go all the way.”

Around the Pala Alpitour

Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France remained alive in their Nitto ATP Finals Green Group doubles play on Tuesday after defeating Argentina’s Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni, 6-4, 6-4, in one hour and 15 minutes. The win improved the fourth-seeded Mexican/French pair to 1-1. On Thursday, they will face No. 1 seeds Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States.

After losing their opening match Sunday, Gonzalez, 40, and Roger-Vasselin, 39, responded well against the seventh-seeded Argentines. They combined for eight aces and won 94 percent of their first-serve points.

Gonzalez and Roger-Vasselin became teammates at the start of this season and have enjoyed a standout year, going 52-22. They have won five tour-level trophies, including a pair of ATP Masters 1000 crowns at Miami and Paris.

By the numbers

Santiago Gonzalez is the first Mexican to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals since Jorge Lozano in 1989. Meanwhile, Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France is appearing at the year-end event for the third time.


“The Tour is very demanding. We get to play a lot of matches during the year at a very high level and intensity. There’s not a single match during the season that is easy, considered easy. There are maybe very few occasions that I would storm through a match 2-3, 2-1. These matches don’t quite happen that often on the tour.

“I do believe it’s because of the maybe lack of rest, lack of getting my body to rest sometimes and properly prepare for big events. I am hunting a lot. I’m trying to get as much as possible regarding points, regarding the rankings. I really push myself to the limits.

“I do believe it’s maybe a combination of lack of rest and not that good of a preparation. Overload, as well. Could be that, as well. … It’s very unfortunate.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, during his post-match press conference Tuesday, after retiring from his match against Holger Rune after just three games.