As the 2019 season opened Stefanos Tsitsipas made his impact at the first grand slam of the year, the Australian Open, by becoming the youngest semifinalist in 12 years. He was so happy to have gone deep in Melbourne and to have defeated multi-grand slam champion Roger Federer along the way.
It was on the other hand, disappointing to not have won over his opponent, The King of Clay, Rafael Nadal. I feel like I could do a bit better today, I dont know, thats how I felt. Its a very, very weird feeling.
I almost felt like I couldnt play better, Tsitsipas said in frustration at the Australian Open press conference as he smoothed his hands through his sun-tanned curly hair; but that was then and just a month later he made up for all of the doubts and losses by winning the Marseilles Open 13 in France in straight sets.
The young Greek battled heavy, not dropping a set the entire tournament. But his last opponent Kazakhstans Mikhail Kukushkin received the brunt of punishment when Tsitsipas blasted 14 aces and won almost 90 per cent of his first serve points.
Winning titles is the thing that I am working for. Its the biggest satisfaction and the biggest joy in tennis, Tsitsipas said with a broad grin. Each player battled and the rallies were precise, but the Greek was the one that became the aggressor and broke Kukushkin at 6-5.
It was a combo of his backhand sliced crosscourt, a slamming volley and his opponents netted return that resulted in Tsitsipas winning the opening set, 7-5. The second set brought some scary moments for the young Greek as he saw himself down 2-5, getting frantic as to how hed pull the match out without losing the title.
He decided on changing techniques to try a serve-and-volley recipe that worked well for him as he won 3 straight games on his pesty opponent to lead 6-5. He was close and couldnt be denied as Tsitsipas put together a string of slices, cross-courts and big forehands, still not enough and Kukushkin anxiously pulled the match to a tiebreak.
The young NextGen wasnt finished and started ripping down-the-lines and spreading all his skills on court which won the match and title for him after his careless opponent netted a return. Tsitsipas was overjoyed as he shook hands with his team, hugged and then dried off from a physically exhausting match.
There were signs of relief obvious on the face and body of the Greek, glad he was able to crawl out from that huge deficient to win the match. He told of his insecurities saying I lost the spark [after the Australian Open] and I was frustrated because it felt like I couldnt find it again, he explained.
Tsitsipas admitted the pressure was nearly unbearable adding that There was a lot of stress this week because I knew I had to face some good opponents. Im happy that I got through…and played the game I was supposed to play.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has a huge spark now and hopefully will carry it into the next tournament to be victorious again.