Some players take small steps over a long period to make an impact on the ATP Tour’s biggest stages. Stefanos Tsitsipas made one giant leap in 2018.
The Greek star arrived at the Rogers Cup as the No. 27 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Tsitsipas had never previously competed in Toronto, but he quickly made himself at home, going on a memorable run at the ATP Masters 1000 event.
“The support was amazing. I felt like I was playing in Athens. I felt like I was playing in my hometown. [There were] so many Greek fans,” Tsitsipas told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot. “It was just the energy I received in every single match I played there. Everyone was with me and it gave me a lot of strength. It gave me a lot of belief. It helped me do very, very well there. It was the week of my life.”
Tsitsipas became the youngest player to beat four Top 10 opponents at a single tournament since the ATP Tour was established in 1990, reaching his first Masters 1000 final. Entering the week, he had only made one tour-level championship match.
“I’m really hungry for more,” Tsitsipas said.
“I was actually not paying attention that much to if I was facing Djokovic or whoever else. I was concentrating on my game,” Tsitsipas said. “I knew that if I would start thinking too much, then it wouldn’t be good for my game, so I said, ‘Keep playing, keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing it well.’”
Tsitsipas emphatically closed out the Serbian with a forehand winner, triumphing 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3.
“That match point, I couldn’t believe it, what had just happened,” Tsitsipas said. “It was one of the best victories I’d had.”
Alexander Zverev led Tsitsipas 6-3, 5-3 in the quarter-finals, but the Greek used the crowd’s energy to rally and make the semi-finals. It was an example of Tsitsipas’ fighting spirit.
“I kept believing I could do it,” he said. “I came back into the match and it seemed like nothing could stop me.”
That attitude remained in the semi-finals against Kevin Anderson. The South African veteran held match point in their final-set tie-break, but Tsitsipas never gave up. Instead, he became even more courageous, crushing a backhand winner to stay in the match before ousting the World No. 6 to make the championship match. Standing across the net was top seed Rafael Nadal.
“I lost to Rafa in Barcelona. It is not easy to come back and play another final against Rafa,” Tsitsipas said. “I was a bit nervous, thinking too much, something I wasn’t doing before that.”
Nadal served for the title at 6-2, 5-4, but Tsitsipas broke back and held a set point to force a decider. The Spaniard saved that opportunity with a drop shot that trickled over the net cord, closing out his victory 6-2, 7-6(4).
Although Tsitsipas fell short of lifting the trophy, it was a confidence-building moment for the 19-year-old Greek. From there, he won the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals and has climbed as high as World No. 5.