Bill Simons and Douglas Hochmuth
THE DAWNING OF THE AGE OF TSITSIPAS?: Tennis gives and tennis takes away. Federer is in his twilight, but this could be the dawning of the age of Tsitsipas. He has it all: youthful exuberance, 6’ 4” athleticism, a daring willingness to charge the net, Adonis good looks, a backhand from the heavens, a passionate love of his noble country – plus a hefty 140,000 subscribers on his ‘have-passport-will travel’ YouTube Channel. He’s different.
Wise and philosophical, he’ll inform you, “When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes. When you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls.” Could this sage-in-training be a hero for nerds – the ATP’s answer to Andrea Petkovic, except with a higher ranking?
On a warm Aussie Sunday night, the boy who was reared in the land of the Greek gods unleashed many a bolt to subdue tennis’s mighty king – Lord Federer. Moving with liquid speed and a confident ease, Stefanos prevailed in four sets. He gushed, “I am the happiest man on earth right now.” And tennis was happy too.
Some called out, “A star is born!” John McEnroe said it was hard to see him not winning Slams. But the 20-year-old is no newbie. Last summer he beat Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Kevin Anderson and Dominic Thiem to reach the Toronto final.
Tsitsipas’ anticipation is uncanny. He has keen court awareness and a veteran’s savvy. At 6’ 4” he’s big – but not too big. More recently he beat Mikhail Kukushkin in Marseille to claim his second ATP title. He brings to mind Adonis, the Greek god of beauty and desire.
And his appeal goes far beyond the court. His YouTube travel vlogs are playful adventures. On twitter he offers what’s-it-all-about provocations: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” What’s not to love? “Tsip, Tsip, Boom,” read a Melbourne headline. Greek fans were beside themselves with glee.
But not everyone bought in. When told that McEnroe said that Tsitsipas might be signaling a changing of the guard, Federer said, “I’ve heard that story the last 10 years…nothing new there.”
More to the point, in the semis of the Aussie Open, Rafa brought the Greek god to earth with a devastating 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 reality check. Jim Courier said the beat-down brought to mind the saying by boxer Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
The stunned Greek confided, “My brain was used to certain angles. But tonight I was always on the wrong foot…The whole match felt weird. He has a talent to make you play bad…I felt empty in the brain.”
But Rafa was full of praise: “[At] every tournament, there is just one winner…He played a great event. He has everything to be a great champion.”
Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be so awful. Imagine having an Adonis atop our sport. And maybe that’s why many Down Under were hoping this just might be the dawning of the age of Tsitsipas.