Stefanos Tsitsipas has a good memory of Milan, the city, which hosts the second edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals. The 20-year-old Greek player won the famous Bonfiglio Junior tennis Tournament in 2016, a prestigious Grade A junior tennis tournament held on outdoor clay at the end of May in Milan before Roland Garros. That year he reached at least the quarter finals of all eight tournaments he played, including all four Grand Slam Junior tournaments. He became the first Greek to win a junior Grand Slam title, when he partnered with Estonian Kenneth Raisma in the doubles tournament at Wimbledon. He also reached the singles semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open and ended 2016 ranked world number 2 at junior level behing Miomir Kecmanovic.
He returned to Milan last year as alternate at the first edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals at the end of a successful season in which he became the first Greek player in history to be ranked in the top 100. He reached his first semifinal at ATP Tour level in Antwerp as a qualifier after beating David Goffin for the first top 10 win of his career.
Tsitsipas has made a major breakthrough in 2018 reaching a career-high of world number 15 in the ATP Ranking.
Stefanos was introduced to tennis at the age of 3. He is coached by his father Apostolos. His Russian mother Julia Salnikova was a top Soviet player in the 1980s. Stefanos has three younger siblings. His tow brothers Petros and Pavlos and his sister Elisavet are also tennis players.
“I was three years old and I hit balls with my father between lessons. I remember watching matches on TV as a baby”, recalls Tsitsipas.
The Athens-born player started playing tennis taking lessons at the Tennis Club Glyfada near Athens at the age of 6. His father has always been his coach, but Stefanos began training at the Patrick Moratoglou Academy in 2015.
His father helped Stefanos develop his aggressive game and his one-handed backhand. As a junior Tsitsipas was ranked number 1 player.
Last April he also finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the final in Barcelona on clay. He achieved his best result at Grand Slam level when he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon before losing to John Isner. During the summer hard-court season he reached the semifinal in Washington and the final in Toronto.
“My favourite tournament of the year is Barcelona. The final against Rafa Nadalwas very special but also the run in Toronto and obviously in Stockolm”
He beat four top 10 players (Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson) en route to reaching his first Masters 1000 final at the Rogers Cup in Toronto before losing to Rafa Nadal in the title match. In the Canadian Open he became the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since 19-year-old Novak Djokovic at 2007 Miami.
Last October he became the first Greek player to win an ATP tournament in Stockolm, where he lifted the maiden trophy of his career.
“I achieved all my goals in 2018 and I have developed as a player. I am happy with my first title in Stockolm and the fourth round at Wimbledon. The first Grand Slam I would like to win in my career, because it is important and has an important media coverage. It’s popular around the world. Winning Wimbledon changes your life”.
“I am still focused on the 2018 season and I want to do my best in Milan. I have not planned 2019 yet. I have to improve my game, especially the tweener ! I have to continue working hard. The 2018 season was my first major season on the tour and I have learned a lot from the two finals I played against Nadal in Barcelona and Toronto. The level of the Next Gen is very high. Only small details make the difference”, said Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas was asked if he would like to add a mentor to his team.
“I would like to work with Pete Sampras to continue improving. He would be perfect, but I doubt that he wants to travel”.
Tsitsipas made a winning debut to his Milan campaign with a hard-fought win over Jaume Munar in four sets in a match which featured three tie-breaks.
“The match was closer than I had expected. It was very stressful from the beginning. Every point counts. You can get broken at any moment. There was a lot of stress with many tie-breaks. The key was to be aggressive and deal with tough situations. My forehand worked well but I have to improve my serve. ”.
Tsitsipas does not like the rule according to which players are instructed to use a towel rack at the back of the court to remove the onus on ball-kids to handle towels.
“One thing that I didn’t like that much was the towel rule. I had to run for the towel, I always in my mind when I was playing. The rest was pretty okay. I am not a big fan of the coaching rule on the court, to be honest. I think a player should find solutions by himself. I don’t really like to talk when I am playing on the court. The rest was fine. It was a great performance. I am going to try to work on my serve for my next match”, said Tsitsipas during the post-match interview.
During the press conference Tsitsipas was asked when was the first time that the ball-boy gave him the towel.
“I think it was my first Mastes as a junior. It was somewhere In Italy I played. It was Tennis Europe Masters. I don’t remember where. Calabria or something ? Is there a place like this ? Reggio Calabria. It was the Masters there. I think they had ball kids for the first time. It’s a habit when you have this for almost your entire life. When you play at high level, you have the ball kids give you the towels, so it’s a bit unusual not to have than when you play a match. I think having the towels whenever you need it, it’s very helpful. It’s one thing less that you have to think about. I believe you don’t need to think about whether you are going to take your towel now or later. You can just call the ball kid. It’s their job to provide towels and balls to the players. I have been a ball boy and I gave the towel in my club tournament. It was the Greek Championship, I think”, said Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas found that the innovative scoring system worked well.
“The four games rule worked well. I think it was okay. I believe a tie-break is a scoring format where the more experienced, the calmer and wiser player usually wins the tie-break. Let’s not forget luck involved as well. I was very satisfied that I won the first tie-breaks because it showed good manners from me. I was just there and taking advantage of my opportunities. The scoring system was fine. Deuce was a bit stressful. One good shot, one lucky return just can make the difference. If this deuce rule would be part of the future, I would just take it away. I would probably continue with ad scoring and forget the deciding point. The rest was pretty fine. The lets were okay. They have been done, because I have had issues in the past where I was playing without referees and the opponents were”.
Tsitsipas is enjoying this week in Milan but he is taking this tournament very seriously.
“ It’s definitely fun. It’s Next Gen fans watching us play. I remember myself being that kid watching the older guys play. I love those kids. They just make tennis more fun and entertaining. I am still motivated at the end of a long season. I love football but I will not be tourist and I will not attend any football matches at San Siro. I am here to win the tournament”
Stefanos Tsitsipas: “I am happy that I reached my goal, but that’s just the starting point to go deeper”
Stefanos Tsitsipas was surprised with the level of his performance during his quarter final match against Roberto Bautista Agut following his sensational win over Roger Federer in the fourth round on Sunday.
“I was a little surprised. You have a bigger picture of your opponent when he is going to come out. You think that he is going to do some extraordinary things. Roberto was playing great today. He played some good tennis the entire week”, said Tsitsipas in the press conference after his win over Roberto Bautista Agut.
The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion admitted that it was difficult to sink in what he achieved against defending champion Federer.
“It was really tough. The first night was tough to process. In the beginning it was tough to fall asleep to be honest with you. I had pain in my toe which kept me awake. In general, I felt a bit of pain in my body and tension. The first night was tough. I slept less than six hours. I was worried about my next match, if I am going to be able to get some good sleep the day before. I wanted to concentrate on my next match. I knew that win against Federer was important, played a huge role in my image, like I am. I knew that the biggest challenge was today’s match, that I can prove myself once again. I am happy that I reached my goal, but that’s like the starting point to go deeper. That’s like the minimum. I would call it”.
Tsitsipas admitted that he was not aware of the dramatic impact of his recent results on the number of subscribers to his personal Youtube channel, which has doubled.
“Oh, my God, really ? I did not know it was going to have such a big impact. I didn’t check yet. I am not sure. I think I am going to be more careful what I am going to post on my next video. I am going to continue doing it. It does not change anything as a person. I am going to try to remain the same. It’s nice to be having those nice results, but it’s important to stay who you are, not think too much of yourself. I am going to continue making those videos. There is no pressure, not all all. I have no clue of what the reaction has been back home in Greece. The only thing I have seen is some posts, some magazine photos. I really want to know what it is back there, how it is back there. I received a lot of messages of support from home, which I have not replied to yet, otherwise it would take too much time. People seem to care. That’s a nice feeling”.
Posting videos on Youtube helped his professional tennis life and gives him satisfaction away from the court.
“I started posting my videos on Youtube. When I am desperate sometimes, when I feel down, I do these videos. I actually feel better. It makes me realize that tennis is not the most important thing in life, that we all have some other talents that we don’t know about. It makes me more relaxed. Film making and photography give me a better understanding and idea of life. There is a lot of things you can learn from that. It relaxes me. I see it as a hobby. Actually it’s a good hobby, because I can carry this stuff to all these locations that I visita round the world, create things.”.
Tsitsipas booked his spot in his first Grand Slam semifinal, where he will face 2009 Melbourne champion Rafael Nadal, who beat Frances Tiafoe in straight sets. Nadal beat Tsitsipas in both their head-to-head matches in two finals played last season in Barcelona and in Toronto.
“I played against Nadal once on clay in Barcelona and once on hard-court in Toronto. On clay it was a different story. I felt like I had no chance after losing 6-1 6-2 in Barcelona. I felt like he was on completely another level on clay that on hard court. I felt very close of beating himin Toronto, though the score was 6-2 7-6. I remember coming back to the locker room and promising to myself I am going to do much better against him next time. I felt like I understood a bit better what he was doing on the court after that match, and especially on hard court”
Tsitsipas grew up in a sports family and started playing tennis inspired by his parents Apostolos Tsitsipas and his mother Julia Salnikova, who was a tennis player. His grandfather Sergei Salnikov (father of Julia) won the Olympic gold medal in football in Melbourne 1956. Stefanos could follow in the footsteps of his grandfather by writing a new chapter in his family’s history in the Australian city.
“It’s very important to have both parents involved in tennis from a very young age. It’s good to have a family that’s so well connected with tennis, he has a good understanding of what’s going on. Many parents have no clue of what they should do for their kids. I feel lucky that I have such parents that know a lot about this game.
Tsitsipas frequently trains in France at the Mouratoglou Academy in Nice.
“Patrick brings me a lot of confidence in my game. He actually is not talking much, but whatever he says is so right and so on point that if I do that, most of the time he is actually right and it’s working. That’s kind of a skill, I would say, from people to be so direct and so right on what they are saying one time, not talking too much here and there, making you feel confused. That’s what I appreciate and admire about him”, said Tsitsipas.
Lucas Pouille Roars His Way To First Grand Slam Semi-Final At Australian Open
The Frenchman praised new coach, Amelie Mauresmo, following his milestone win over Milos Raonic.
France’s Lucas Pouille has continued his dream run at the Australian Open after hitting his way past Milos Raonic 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4, in the quarter-finals.
The 26th seed entered Melbourne Park with little expectation of going deep. Prior to the tournament, the Frenchman had only won one out of eight singles matches played since October (including the Hopman Cup). Despite his lack of wins in recent time, Pouille illustrated his potential with a dominant display against Raonic, a player who he had never took a set off in their three previous meetings on the tour.
“I’m very happy. I knew it would be a tough match. I did really good on my returns and I held my serve throughout almost all of the match.“ Pouille said during his on-court interview.
“I didn’t win a match before coming into Melbourne. Now here I am in the semi-finals, I’m just very, very happy.”
Taking on a player who is known as one of the biggest servers in the game, it was the French world No.31 who was the more dominant. Pouille claimed an impressive 84% of the points behind his first serve as he hit 62 winners past his Canadian rival. He also has the chance to break the Raonic serve 14 times during the clash, but could only convert three of them.
“I really wanted to return as best as possible to put a lot of balls into the court, make him play.” The 24-year-old commented about the tactics he used.
“I just enjoyed the moment and that’s what I did.”
Pouille experienced a scare early in the match when he got broken to fall behind 0-3. Enabling Raonic to gradually work his way to 5-2 in the opener. Despite the blip, Pouille hit back with interest as he impressively didn’t face another break point for the remainder of the match. Frustrating his rival with a series of stunning passing shots.
Boasting a two sets lead, it looked as if Pouille would cruise towards the victory as he continued to apply pressure onto the Raonic serve. However, during the closing stages of set three, a call made against Raonic fired the Canadian up. The umpire said he wasn’t able to reward him the point because he didn’t see when the Frenchman hit the ball, prompting the world No.17 to reply ‘because you don’t watch. And you’re incapable.’ Following the argument, Raonic raced through the tiebreaker by claiming six points in a row before clinching it to revive his chances.
With neither player buckling behind their serve during the fourth frame, Pouille battled towards the milestone win. Leading 5-4, he once again troubled the Raonic serve as he worked his way to two match point opportunities. He failed to convert his first due to a fine volley from his opponent. Then on his second, a clean forehand winner from Raonic denied him. Eventually, it was third time lucky for Pouille at the expense of an unforced error from across the court. Sending him into the semi-final of a major for the first time in his career.
The milestone has been achieved under the watchful eye on new coach Amelie Mauresmo. A former world No.1 women’s player who has previously worked alongside Andy Murray. Pouille remains in the minority when it comes to an ATP player have a female coach, but he insists that gender plays no part.
“She (Mauresmo) has the right state of mind, she knows everything about tennis. It’s not about being a woman or man.” He said. “You just have to know what you’re doing and she does.”
“We kept working hard. Even after all of the matches that I lost. I went on the court straight after (my loses), decided to take it step-by-step. Give all I have on every single point and here I am.” He later added.
Pouille will play either Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori in the semi-finals.
The last Frenchman to win the men’s title in Melbourne was Jean Borotra back in 1928.
Rafael Nadal storms into semi-final with dominant win over Tiafoe
Rafael Nadal progressed to his fifth Australian Open semi-final with a comprehensive win over rising star Frances Tiafoe.
Rafael Nadal produced an impressive performance to see off Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-4 6-2 and advance to the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the fifth time.
The emphatic scoreline means that the Spaniard, 32, is still yet to drop a set in the event this year. And it sets him up perfectly to push on and try and claim his second title in Melbourne.
It was a disappointing end to the American’s run. However, he can be justifiably proud of his efforts, especially during his wins over Kevin Anderson and Gregor Dimitrov, and it was clear to see today that his previous matches had taken a lot out of him.
Nadal raced through his opening service game to win it to love. He then immediately attacked Tiafoe’s serve and gained an immediate break.
That was all the Spaniard needed. He dominated on serve throughout the set and won 20 of the 23 points behind it, which enabled him to wrap it up 6-3 in just 31 minutes.
Tiafoe fights hard in the second set
The American made the worst possible start to the second set. He played a poor game on serve and lost it to love.
To his credit, Tiafoe responded well and fought for everything in the next few games. He earned his first break point of the match in game four after he won a 20-shot rally. However, he sent his next return just long.
The American then got another chance immediately when Nadal pulled a forehand wide. But again Tiafoe was unable to take advantage as he hit a backhand long.
Those turned out to be Tiafoe’s only opportunities in the set, as the World No.2 eventually held after three more deuces and went on to take it 6-4 without facing any more alarms on his serve.
Nadal ends Tiafoe’s challenge with early break
When Nadal broke the American in the opening of the third set, as he had done in the first two sets, the match already seemed as good as over.
Tiafoe hung in for a few more games to keep it to one break. However, his resistance ended when he made some tired errors and dropped his serve in game seven.
Fittingly, Nadal closed out the match with another commanding game on serve, which included a trademark forehand winner down the line.
“For me it’s very emotional to be back in the semi-finals here in Melbourne,” Nadal said in his post-match interview. “I’ve had some dramas at this event during my career so to be back in the semi-final after a while means everything to me.”
The Spaniard continued, “I feel lucky to be where I am after all the things that have happened. To keep competing at this level is why I wake up every morning to go on court or go to the gym with the goal to be a better player.”
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