Stefanos Tsitsipas may have taken the foreign media by surprise with his meteoric rise at this year’s Canadian Open in Toronto, dumping out Wimbledon winners and defending champions, but the Vouliagmeni native has been honing his skills for years.
In July last year, the 20-year-old (who celebrates his birthday today) was 315 in the ATP doubles rankings.
Now he is Greece’s best-performing male tennis star having made history by defeating four top-10 players at a single competition. This feat has stunned the media, but Tsitsipas is steeped in tennis tradition.
His father is Greek and his mother is Russian, both of whom were serious tennis competitors who met on court. The Tsitsipas family has tennis in their blood and Stefanos’ siblings — brothers Petros and Pavlos, plus sister Elisavet — are all tennis players.
In an interview with Greek site Sport24, Stefanos said: “My first memory is [of being] three and hitting balls with my father in the gap between lessons. I remember watching games on TV, as a baby, I cannot tell you who was playing, but I remember watching.”
A former world number-one junior, he began his career in 2013 at the age of 14. In 2015, his junior Grand Slam performances saw him reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, finishing as the world’s No. 14 ranked junior.
It was in 2016 that Tsitsipas made it as far as the quarterfinals of all eight tournaments he entered, including all four Grand Slams. His doubles game saw him win a junior Grand Slam at Wimbledon. He also made the semifinals of Wimbledon in the singles category as well as reaching the same stage at the U.S. Open.
After turning pro, Tsitsipas honed his trade at ITF matches in Greece. In 2016, on the back of a series of strong performances, he broke into the top 200 for the first time. He made it into the top 100 — the first Greek to do so — at the age of 19 with a win over world No. 10 David Goffin at the European Open in Belgium.
But it has been 2018 which saw the young Athenian really break through into the consciousness of the wider public. His quarterfinal performance at the Qatar Open saw him lose to Austrian Dominic Thiem — who Tsitsipas would later beat in Toronto.
He made it through to the finals of the Barcelona Open where he eventually lost out to Rafael Nadal – another future opponent in Toronto. Tsitsipas later won his first Grand Slam match at the French Open and at Wimbledon he was seeded for the first time, reaching the Round of 16.
But it has been the Canadian Open where the young Greek has blazed a trail. He defeated Thiem before going on to take a major scalp in the form of Serbia’s 13-time Major champion, Novak Djokovic — arguably Tsitsipas’ biggest win so far.
He then beat Germany’s defending Canadian Open champion Alexander Zverev on Friday 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4, prompting a post-match press conference outburst from Zverev that the game had been “pathetic”.
Tsitsipas then eliminated Kevin Anderson in semi-finals to earn a place in his first ATP Masters 1000 final against Nadal who defeated him earlier in Barcelona.
Known for his do-or-die attitude, Tsitsipas frequently posts inspirational messages online reflecting the work ethic and winning mentality which have propelled him to the top of tennis’ elite.
It never gets easier.
You just get better. pic.twitter.com/jiX5YdnGHF
— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) August 12, 2018
Stay positive, work hard, make it happen. pic.twitter.com/jmEZcnGQv7
— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) August 10, 2018
A prolific social media user, like many 21st-century athletes, Tsitsipas has posted footage of himself playing tennis with film actors, telling fans directly about his experiences on court and, more light-heartedly, trying candies from around the world.
As the clock ticks down to Sunday’s Canadian Open final, it is certain that win or lose, this young athlete who has achieved so much will be flying the flag for Greece and doing his country proud.