Tsitsipas Aims To Inspire In Emirates ATP Race To Milan
Greek teenager hopes to qualify for the #NextGenATP Finals in November
#NextGenATP Stefanos Tsitsipas speaks exclusively to ATPWorldTour.com about his life on the road and his desire to inspire a generation of Greek tennis players.
The statement on Stefanos Tsitsipas’ website is clear: “Tennis is my life. I breathe tennis!” His lifestyle of travel, graft and dedication has seen the 18 year old rocket from outside the Top 1,000 of the Emirates ATP Rankings in August 2015 to his current position of No. 201.
“In Athens it is not as well organised as at the academy and there aren’t too many at my level to train with. But I hope to inspire,” Tsitsipas told ATPWorldTour.com from the sun of Sardinia, Italy, at the Santa Margherita di Pula. “Many people are playing the game in Greece, it’s growing slowly and getting more and more popular. You see it more on the news and on websites. We have some juniors doing a good job. Hopefully our success can make tennis even more popular.”
The state-of-the-art facilities at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy hosted the recent Verrazzano Open, enabling Tsitsipas to practise with World No. 1 Andy Murray, who stopped by to ramp up his clay-court preparations. Tsitsipas soon realised the work rate required to accumulate the on-court armoury that will rival those in the upper echelons of professional tennis.
“It was for sure inspirational,” said Tsitsipas. “He’s a player I’ve been watching on television from a young age. He’s inspired me the way he plays tennis and the way he’s such a big fighter on court. He’s the World No. 1, he’s achieved so much in the sport. Actually, he won Wimbledon (2013), the first British man in 77 years to do so, then repeated the feat last year. I’m sure Great Britain is very proud of him. It was an honour to practise with him.”
However, the privilege to hit with the sport’s top player nearly became a blur.
“He offered advice, he’s a really friendly guy, very open minded, but I can’t remember everything he told me, I was so focused on the practice,” revealed Tsitsipas. “I remember he told me in a volley game at the net, not to hesitate and to go towards the ball. But that’s pretty much all I remember!”
Motivated by the challenges ahead, Tsitsipas would relish the prestigious opportunity to participate in the inaugural #NextGenATP Finals in Milan this November.
“I’m very proud of the level my game is at and what I have achieved so far, but it doesn’t end now,” said Tsitsipas. “I’m looking forward to what is ahead, I’m focused on qualifying for the #NextGenATP Finals, but that is a long way away.
“It’s a very good idea from the ATP, [which is] really looking after the youngsters coming through. I only have good things to say about the Milan finals and if I managed to qualify, I’d be very proud and happy.”
Alongside his quest to reach Milan, the ambitious Greek is targeting major success. “If I qualified for a Grand Slam that would be amazing. I’d be so happy for my game, my team and my country.”
Tsitsipas has now experienced matches on the ATP Challenger Tour and ATP World Tour, with the rise in standard illustrating the magnitude of the task ahead.
“For sure it’s very different, you come against much better players, guys you have watched on the TV and admire,” said Tsitsipas. “In an ATP World Tour main draw, I faced Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and I remember watching him since I was a little kid.” Tsitsipas pushed the eventual ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament champion in a 6-4, 7-6(2) loss. “It’s tough, because every match counts. But it’s pretty good because there are plenty of points on offer every week.”