A Tseenage dream flies past, but the future is all Tsitsipas
In a period where the World Cup is dominating the media, Neymar and co.’s diving antics were somehow overshadowed by those of a young man from Greece.
In the Wimbledon second round, Stefanos Tsitsipas, 19, arguably delivered the shot of the tournament.
Even more impressive, however, was Tsitsipas’ ability to leave it all on the court with all on the line.
The No. 31 seed had led two (relatively straightforward) sets to love before Jared Donaldson — a dangerous opponent who was part of the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals cast last year — came storming back. Tables had turned when the rain interrupted them, leaving the 21-year-old American with the break in the fourth set.
It was all Donaldson again the next day, as the latter closed out the fourth and took a commanding 3-1 lead in the fifth. With his momentum well and truly gone and a break to recover, one could reasonably doubt Tsitsipas’ chances to emerge victorious from the very first five-setter of his career.
In response, Tsitsipas ran away with the last five games of the match, gracing the Court 18 crowd with the aforementioned diving volley to hold for 5-3.
"With this dive, I let him know that I would be everywhere if needed. It probably helped me break him again in the final game," he said.
The Team Mouratoglou player had a lot of are-you-kidding-me moments this season, but that one was perhaps the most striking indicator of the kind of player Tsitsipas might become in the foreseeable future.
Coincidentally, Tsitsipas revealed he had been studying clips of another bold, fierce, feisty 19-year-old who’s still fairly relevant these days.
"Actually, before every match, the night before, I was watching YouTube videos of Roger Federer playing on grass, matches that he played against Pete Sampras when he was actually younger and pretty close to my age. So I was inspired. I wanted to play exactly like him and do the same results. I remember this match with – I watched it two, three times this week – with Pete Sampras. I think it was the fourth round of Wimbledon. He won that match, and it’s an inspiration. He was so young and he was just – he was coming out of nowhere, and then the whole world knew straight away who Roger Federer was, what he could do on the court.”
When asked about Tsitsipas, Roger Federer reciprocally had nothing but praise, depicting him as a “very sweet and polite kid (…) who’s been taking major steps forward since last year's Wimbledon."
20-time Grand Slam champion @rogerfederer had high praise for @StefTsitsipas in press conference earlier this week ????— Mouratoglou Tennis Academy (@MouratoglouAcad) 9 July 2018
After missing out last year, could they meet for the first time this year in the #Wimbledon semifinals?
Making light work of Thomas Fabbiano — who had just beaten Stan Wawrinka in straights — in the third round the day after completing the Donaldson win was definitely was one of those steps forward.
On his first Manic Monday, Tsitsipas played a solid match against No. 11 seed John Isner. He held mini-breaks in both tiebreaks, but eventually surrendered to the American’s devastating serve and superior experience of high-stakes matches in a 6-4, 7-6(8), 7-6(4) loss.
A winner of the junior doubles tournament here in 2016, Tsitsipas cared a great deal about doing well at Wimbledon, but he didn’t expect to achieve such results so rapidly.
“The vibes, the emotions and the conditions were just absolutely perfect this year, and despite the loss, I can only take positives out of this Grand Slam. I actually did get a bit emotional being in the last 16 of a Grand Slam that I’ve been dreaming of winning one day, and hopefully I can win it one day,” he said.
At all times, Tsitsipas knows he can build on a relationship of mutual trust with the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy staff, composed of high-level director Kerei Abakar, physio Frédéric Lefebvre and head of medical center Jérome Bianchi.
“In my opinion, I have the best team — even of the ATP World Tour. Everyone is a master at what they’re doing. Kerei is a master in tennis, and he's doing a fantastic job; Fred is a master in fitness and tennis (he can also play tennis with me sometimes), even in cooking… He’s got the whole packaging (laughs); and Jérome is a master at making my body 100% ready for my next match and away from injuries. I feel very proud to have such a great team surrounding me, with my Dad also next to me. It’s the perfect combo,” he told mouratoglou.com on Monday.
And then, of course, there's the man who sensed his potential at the age of 16: Patrick Mouratoglou himself, who believes Stefanos Tsitsipas possesses the X Factor that will allow him to stand out from the crowd.
At Wimbledon, a Tseenage dream has flown past; but the future is all Tsitsipas.
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