09/11/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/11/2019 17:43
When Stefanos Tsitsipas is asked to think back to some of the standout Davis Cup moments he can recall, his mind immediately drifts to the 2010 final between Serbia and France in Belgrade.
'I remember Serbia in particular winning the Davis Cup, which meant a lot to them when they won it, with [Novak] Djokovic included in the team. And for a small nation like Serbia, with not so much, let's say at the time, great players, they achieved something spectacular and they brought joy to their people,' Tsitsipas recollects.
On Wednesday, on the immaculate clay courts of Tatoi Club in the north of Athens, Tsitsipas got his first taste of what it feels like to bring joy to his home crowd while flying the flag for Greece in Davis Cup. Making his competition debut, the 21-year-old eased past Tom Diederich of Luxembourg 6-1 6-0 in 48 minutes to help Greece secure a 3-0 victory in their opening Europe Group III round robin tie.
Ranked No.7 in the world, Tsitsipas rocketed to superstar status in Greece, especially after his stunning run to the Australian Open semi-finals early this year, where he upset Roger Federer along the way.
So far in his young career, he's managed to smash a slew of records for his nation. He is the first Greek man to rank in the top 100, the first to win an ATP title - he has won three to date - and is now the highest-ranked Greek player in history.
But for all he has already accomplished in the sport, the magnitude of the occasion of his Davis Cup debut is not lost on him.
'I was thinking about it today in the match that it's actually the first Davis Cup match I've ever played,' he said. 'It felt great, representing the flag, and making my compatriots proud of my performance today. I really hope I get more great moments like this in the future.'
The timing of this tie has perhaps come at the best time for Tsitsipas, who has had a difficult few weeks on the pro circuit, losing his opening rounds in his last three tour events. Many players in the past have gotten a jolt of energy and motivation from their Davis Cup successes - does Tsitsipas feel this week in Athens can do the same for him?
'I don't know, the people gave me a lot of support and I felt different actually on the court than I usually do. And I really hope that helps me when I go back on the tour with some of the things,' he responded.
'It's a different energy when you're out on court representing your country playing Davis Cup - people feel it more, people are much more emotional when it gets to playing in such an important event. I really hope I leave from here with something good in the back of my shoulders.'
Tsitsipas has high hopes for his country in Davis Cup, as he looks to lift Greece through the ranks and one day make it to the Davis Cup Finals. The start of this journey already has a special feel to it for him, as he shares the team with his younger brother Petros, who partnered Markos Kalovelonis on Wednesday to seal the sweep against Luxembourg in doubles.
'I'm really proud of him, he did great today,' said Tsitsipas of Petros. 'I'm a proud brother, and it feels nice that I have a brother playing on the same team as me.'
Tsitsipas' participation in Davis Cup takes him closer to achieving another lifelong dream - that is to compete at an Olympic Games. The Athens native lights up when Tokyo 2020 is mentioned, and hopes to compete in mixed doubles with his countrywoman Maria Sakkari.
'For us, it means everything, participating in the Olympics and for sure a medal. I really want to play Olympics next year, it's one of my goals to make it. Tokyo is a very special place and it happens to be one of my favourite cities in the world, and the vibes there are going to be awesome,' he added.
An amateur photographer with a penchant for exploring new places, Tsitsipas would no doubt take his camera gear to Tokyo should he make it there next year. And as a huge fan of the Olympics all his life, his list of inspirational Olympic figures is a lengthy one.
'I have a lot of Olympic idols. One of them is Pyrros Dimas, who was a champion in weightlifting from Greece,' he said.
'He was considered the most decorated weightlifter in the history of the sport and I really admire him, because he's a legend when it comes to that sport. I also like Usain Bolt, his style, a few players in tennis that stood out to me were [Juan Martin] Del Potro and Djokovic. That match they played in Rio, I remember watching it and it almost felt like a final, although it was a first round. It was a great match to watch.'
Before Tsitsipas can allow his imagination to linger further on his Olympic dream, he must first focus on Greece's highly-anticipated showdown with Poland on Thursday, as round robin action resumes. The tie will pit him against Polish No.1 Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated Tsitsipas in the Rogers Cup in Canada recently, after losing to the Greek in their first three duels. It's a match-up that has the potential to become quite the thrilling rivalry down the road.
'We're both Next Gen, we're both young, we're new to the tour, so it is kind of a rivalry between me and him. I think we're going to face each other many more times in the future. He's doing a great job, he's very professional and very disciplined in what he does, and he's a very challenging player to face,' says Tsitsipas of Hurkacz.
Poland made a strong start to their Davis Cup campaign, going 3-0 against Monaco on Wednesday. Estonia also enjoyed a clean sweep against North Macedonia, while Latvia was undefeated against Montenegro.