Tsitsipas: It’s Only The Beginning

Stefanos Tsitsipas has had such an impact on the tennis world that we sometimes forget that the young star is, in essence, still a relative newbie.

Felciano Lopez, at 40 one of the Tour’s elder statesmen, made that mistake a few months back when the Spaniard told Tsitsipas he thought he had been on the scene for the better part of a decade.

“He has lost track of time completely,” laughed Tsitsipas on the eve of the Australian Open, site of his first big splash in 2019, when he stunned Roger Federer and became the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist (20) in a dozen years.

“I feel like I had few good years on the Tour, but I’m kind of in the beginning of it.”

A few good years? Now 23, all he’s done is sweep the Big Three of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, claim seven titles, including the Nitto ATP Finals in 2019 and the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in 2021 and climb to a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 3, something he accomplished last year, the same year he reached his maiden major final at Roland Garros.

Tsitsipas finds himself matched up against a familiar opponent at Melbourne Park. For the second straight year, he’ll face good friend and occasional practice partner Mikael Ymer, this time in the opening round.

“We have played together in the juniors for many, many years, so we know each other since the age of 10,” said Tsitsipas, who’s 2-0 against the Swede. “He’s someone that has a very solid game in terms of putting a lot of balls back into the court, very good movement on the court. I’m just going to have to approach this match carefully, the way I always do.”

Beyond Ymer could be 2021 quarter-finalist Grigor Dimitrov in the third round, and eighth seed Casper Ruud in the last eight. However, Tsitsipas says he isn’t looking too far ahead. He knows how tricky those big-stage openers can be.

“The first rounds can be the most challenging ones,” he said. “You don’t know what to expect. Everyone has trained for almost two months prior to the Australian Open. They’ve done pre-season training, fitness training. There has been a lot of change. Most of them I would hope are aiming for a change in their games. It is indeed a very challenging thing to bring your best in the first round. It makes for one of the most difficult rounds in a Grand Slam, for sure.”

His loss to Djokovic in the 2021 Roland Garros final, in which he surrendered a two-sets-to-love lead, was surely a bitter pill to swallow. But the experience should only serve him well moving forward.

“My tactics remain the same. But I’m really going for the long run in every single one of them,” said the Greek. “There is kind of a different mental approach to it because you might be two sets to love up but the match isn’t over yet. The confidence is there. The confidence kicks in in week two. That’s where you can evaluate and move on.”

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