THE DAWNING OF THE AGE OF TSITSIPAS? Tennis gives and tennis takes away. Roger Federer is in his twilight, but this may well be the dawning of the age of Tsitsipas. He has it all: youthful exuberance, 6’ 4” athleticism, Adonis good looks, a backhand from the heavens, a passionate love of his noble country, 100,000 subscribers on his ‘have-passport-will travel’ YouTube Channel.
And he’s wise and more than a bit philosophical. One example was when he suggested, “When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes. When you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls.” Has there ever been a more philosophical 20-year old ATP player?
Maybe it has something to do with his parents. His dad, who was a teaching pro and is his coach, has a great perspective. He said, “The number one thing is to motivate the children and look for the love inside and if you stay around them you can fulfill all their wishes.” His mom, a former pro tennis player, recalled her son as a young boy: “He was listening. He wasn’t a softy, but he always figured out what he was going to do by discussing it with us and that was a pleasure.”
Stefanos said, “In our society in Greece, we love to be family.” Melbourne was smitten with the man-child who knows how to volley. “Tsip, Tsip, Boom,” read one headline. Greek fans were beside themselves with glee here. Unfortunately, Tsitsipas was beside himself when he got schooled in the semis by the zoning Rafa Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-0.
“This is not the way I wanted to leave,” said the despondent Greek. “My brain was used to certain angles. But tonight I was always on the wrong foot. I felt very slow. The whole match felt weird. My body was stiff. He has a talent to make you play bad. I call that a talent. I was not in the match, I felt empty in the brain…His dominance just felt wrong. I hope it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to lose to him ten times.”
Reporters reminded Stefanos that after Federer scored his landmark Wimbledon quarterfinal win over Sampras he endured some lean seasons with little glory. Jim Courier was a tad less kind, noting that the beat-down Stefanos suffered brought to mind the old saying by boxer Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Ultimately it was Rafa who put Tsitsipas’ loss in proper perspective. “That’s the game,” he said. “Everyone has to live that experience. [At] every tournament, there is just one winner and everyone else loses. He played a great event. He has everything to be a great champion.”
No kidding. After all, this could well be the dawning of the Age of Tsitsipas.