Tsitsipas: "I actually love what I'm doing"

  • Matt Trollope

After beating Daniil Medvedev in the Roland Garros quarterfinals, Stefanos Tsitsipas said he felt “privileged” to find himself in the final four. 

“I feel obviously I've put in a lot of daily hard work and has been a key element of me being here,” he said. “But you know, my ego tells me I want more.”

Well, now he has achieved more.

The 22-year-old Greek star progressed to his first Grand Slam final on Friday with a five-set victory over Alexander Zverev, a result extending Tsitsipas’ dominant head-to-head record against the German to 6-2. 

Now, in the biggest match of his career, he will attempt to clear one of the highest hurdles in the sport, represented by world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

“I'm really happy with myself. I think I've shown good discipline so far. I've been progressive,” Tsitspas observed.

“There is the final, which is exciting. I'm looking forward on leaving my entire body on the court.”

Since the tour transitioned to clay in early April, it has felt Tsitsipas has been building to this moment.

He won his first ATP Masters title in Monte Carlo, and took his winning streak to nine matches by advancing to the Barcelona final the following week, where he came within a point of beating Rafael Nadal. 

A few weeks later, a second clay-court title came in Lyon, the beginning of another winning streak which now stands unbeaten at 10 matches.

No player has won more tour-level main-draw clay-court matches than Tsitsipas in 2021. 

“I'm proud of myself. I actually love what I'm doing. I love that I get to play in this stadium. I'm grateful for every single match I get to play."
Stefanos Tsitsipas

This ATP tournament success would mean little to the intense, driven Greek if he could not replicate that form and those results on the clay courts of Paris. So far this fortnight he has, despite the external pressure of being favoured to emerge from the bottom half of the draw as a finalist on Sunday.

There was his straight-sets dismantling of second seed Medvedev, an opponent against whom he had won just one of seven career meetings. And then there was his assignment against Zverev, which he undertook knowing he was previously 0-3 in major semifinals. 

Having overcome his two contemporaries back-to-back, he now turns his attention to the final, where he will face Djokovic – the last player to defeat him on clay, in the Rome Masters quarterfinals.

There is added incentive to avenge that defeat, given he led by a break in both the second and third sets before succumbing 4-6 7-5 7-5. Incentive, too, to reverse the result of their Roland Garros semifinal last year, which Djokovic won in five sets.

“In Grand Slams, it's all about the endurance and being able to show up and do your job once every two days and do it well,” Tsitsipas explained.

“It takes a lot of attention, a lot of effort. I've actually grew up into loving that process and wanting to repeat that. It's a process that can be very demanding, but that's what our sport is all about. 

“That's what makes our sport so spectacular.”

A Grand Slam triumph would be spectacular indeed, especially if Tsitsipas was able to achieve it at this young age – at a tournament he watched and followed since he was a child – in an era during which legendary veterans of the sport continue to dominate.

Two of them, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, clashed in a mesmeric semifinal that followed Tsitsipas and Zverev’s encounter.  

And while Djokovic arrives in the final with the incredible confidence boost of dethroning the King of Clay on his beloved Court Philippe Chatrier, he also carries a significant burden of pressure, given the tennis records and history within his reach.

Tsitsipas is the underdog and can swing freely. And he is approaching the biggest match of his life with a mindset that reflects this. 

“I'm proud of myself. I actually love what I'm doing,” he said.

“I love that I get to play in this stadium. I'm grateful for every single match that I get to play. I'm obviously just blessed to have the opportunity to play against the best and test myself, something that I've always dreamed and wished to happen one day.

“I'm able to be here and really going for it. I love that.”