WASHINGTON, December 12, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Editor’s note: The 2019 tennis season will be remembered for several new faces who emerged on both the ATP and WTA tours, such as Bianca Andreescu, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ashleigh Barty, Daniil Medvedev and Coco Gauff.
Today, Tennis TourTalk continues a series of off-season features that highlight the breakout stars of the ATP and WTA tours with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
After Stefanos Tsitsipas won the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, he remarked that each year he aims for more than the year before. It keeps him motivated to keep going higher.
Fast forward a year and Tsitsipas – not Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer – raised the biggest individual trophy in men’s tennis, the one awarded to the year-end ATP Finals champion in London.
I’ve matured a lot and I’ve played a lot of matches,” Tsitsipas said during the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., at the beginning of the summer hard court season. I’ve remained hungry, motivated, and with a desire to do well.”
Indeed, Tsitsipas enjoyed a remarkable 2019 season that culminated last month with a convincing 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory Dominic Thiem in the Nitto ATP Finals title match at the O2 Arena in London. It came a day after the 21-year-old Greek star knocked off Federer, 6-3, 6-4, in the semifinal round.
”I came with a lot of confidence in the (2018) Next Gen ATP Finals knowing I’m one of the best and I can do really well. Left with the trophy,” Tsitsipas told the ATP Tour website. “Felt unbelievably excited for the new season because I beat the youngest generation of players. I think that gave me a tremendous amount of boost.
”Fresh blood, they are always fighting more and they are new to the game, so for me that was a great first look of how things work and operate in the Masters circle. It’s a great combo, isn’t it?”
Tsitsipas completed this season with a 54-25 win-loss record and earned a Top-10 ranking at World No. 6. Along the way, he won two other titles during 2019 – at Marseille on an indoor hard court in February and at Estoril on clay in early May – before shining in London for his biggest title of his young career. Despite hitting a Grand Slam slump in which he was unceremoniously ousted in the first round of both Wimbledon and the US Open – two of eight tournaments he lost in the opening round – Tsitsipas hit his stride during the Fall Asian swing. He strung together two weeks of superb, in-form play and reached the finals at Beijing and Shanghai. Then, Tsitsipas arrived in Europe and was a semifinalist at Basel and a quarterfinalist at the Masters 1000 in Paris before winning the ATP Finals. He reached the final round of tournaments six times in 2019.
”Firstly, I was excited to be part of the Nitto ATP Finals experience. For me, it was already a big thing,” Tsitsipas recalled after lifting the season-ending trophy. “Now that I’m a champion, I don’t know how to explain it. I honestly don’t feel anything, because it’s too many emotions to feel something.
”I remember myself watching this event on TV and thinking, ‘Oh, these guys have done an insane year to be playing here.’ And now I’m in the position to be champion, so it feels awesome.”
Soon, after his triumph in London, the free-spirited and adventurous Tsitsipas set his racquets aside and escaped the tennis world. He didn’t go to the Maldives to relax like many others did. Instead, he chose to visit and explore Iceland and Oman. Yes, Iceland and Oman. Tsitsipas really escaped for a much-needed diversion in two very different parts of the world – each with totally opposite climates. The enjoyable respite gave the Greek star a chance to explore the beauty and absorb the culture of each country, and also create some new “vlogs” (video blogs) to share with his many social media followers.
أرض العجائب الحقيقية. pic.twitter.com/6uuzv1nfkL
— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) December 8, 2019
Following Tsitsipas’ social media activities, whether on Twitter or Instagram – or through the vlogs he frequently posts on YouTube – is a treat and provides a unique perspective on the very likable and quotable tennis personality. If the photos he posted on Twitter from Iceland and Oman are any indication, Tsitsipas was a very happy and contented person – certainly, at peace with himself.
”Mornings are for coffee and contemplation,” Tsitsipas tweeted while in Iceland, the small Nordic island nation that’s known for volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. Also, “I’m going to catch a cold from the ice within my soul.” Then, while visiting Oman, an Arab country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia, he shared this thought: “All across the Middle East, people are so welcoming. Such a shame the rest of the world doesn’t see it.”
Looking ahead, after undergoing three weeks of intensive training, Tsitsipas will open his 2020 season – his fourth since turning pro – by representing Team Greece in Brisbane at the inaugural ATP Cup that begins the first week of January. Greece will compete in Group F against Germany, Canada and host Australia.
“For me, the pre-season is an exciting part of the year where I get to add things to my game and get to fix a few things that haven’t been working, or maybe I can slightly improve them,” Tsitsipas said in an ATP Uncovered interview. “It’s three weeks in which I can benefit a lot and learn even more.”