Stefanos Tsitsipas, a tennis’ new superstar

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Stefanos

 

When he defeated Roberto Bautista Agut on Tuesday, Stefanos Tsitsipas became the youngest player to reach the semi-final of a grand slam since Novak Djokovic at the US Open in 2007.

But who is the 20-year-old?

“You’re watching the changing of the guard,” John McEnroe said after 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted the 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer in the fourth-round of the Australian Open on Sunday.

It may be too soon to write 37-year-old Federer off — it has been done before only for the Swiss to prove commentators wrong.

But Tsitispas certainly has the makings of a future champion.

He has now defeated Spanish veteran Bautista Agut 7-5 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2) to emulate Djokovic at the US Open in 2007.

The Greek first came to attention last year, when he shot up the rankings from 91 to 15 and won the Next Gen Finals in November.

Aside from Federer, he also claimed a string of other top scalps last year, including Djokovic and Dominic Thiem at the Rogers Cup in August.

He also beat, Alexander Zverev at the Citi Open, Kevin Anderson in Shanghai, David Goffin in Cincinnati and Fabio Fognini in Stockholm.

He comes from good sporting stock: his Russian mother was also a junior number one tennis player, while his father is a tennis coach.

And his maternal grandfather won an Olympic gold medal playing football for the Soviet Union.

“My doctor, who helped me to deliver the child, he told me that Stefanos was coming out with his hand up, like a tennis player,” his mother, Julia Apostoli-Salnikova, told the New York Times last year.

Ttitsipas is part of a new generation of players.

These include Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov, Australia’s Alex de Minaur and Frances Tiafoe of the United States.

They are just beginning to make their marks at grand slams, though he is the first to make it to a semi-final.

The Greek is well known for his love of social media.

He tweets, has a podcast called “A Greek Abroad,” and almost 24,000 followers on his YouTube channel, where he regularly posts videos from his travels.

“There was a lot of travelling for me when I started touring and playing tennis,” he said after Tuesday’s win.

“At the time I was watching a lot of creators and people that were creating nice content on YouTube and I found this platform unique and … the perfect platform to express yourself.”

In fact he got in trouble in Australia for making a video with a drone in Sydney, which is against the law, and had to delete it.

“It was a very nice video. It took me hours to make. It actually was really spectacular. It was nice to watch. But unfortunately I don’t want to get into trouble because of that,” he told reporters on Sunday.

He is confident about his prospects, but also aware that he needs to work hard if he wants to maintain the momentum.

“My idol today became pretty much my rival,” he said after beating Federer. But, he added, “I need to stay humble. This win is a good milestone, let’s say good first step, as I said, to something bigger.”

Their match was widely compared to Federer’s breakthrough win at Wimbledon in 2001 against Pete Sampras, who was trying to defend his title.

Federer himself, asked whether there were similarities between himself and the Greek, was reluctant to concede many.

“He has a one-handed backhand and I used to have long hair, too. Yeah, so maybe a little bit, sure,” he said on Sunday.

But he admitted Tsitsipas was on the right path.

“Beating Novak in Toronto, the likes of [Kevin] Anderson and [Alexander] Zverev, now me here. That’s what you need to do to get to the next level. He’s doing that,” Federer said.

By  Olawale Alabi