Tsitsipas gets a piece of history

06.10.2022    Views: 395
Source: KTF press-service
Greg Garber

He’s one of the very best tennis players in the world, but Stefanos Tsitsipas felt like a kid at the recent Laver Cup in London. With Roger Federer playing the last match of his career, doubles with Rafael Nadal, the 24-year Greek nervously approached the 20-time Grand Slam singles champion for a slice of history.

«It would mean the world to me if I could have one of your rackets,» Tsitsipas said to Federer. «I’ve been following you since I was three years old. If I could have a racket to frame and put in my house to share that with you is extremely special to me. I hope you don’t mind to give me that piece of your identity.»

Federer graciously offered up one of the 340-gram Wilson Pro Staff RF97s from his bag.

«Obviously, he agreed,» Tsitsipas said at the Astana Open in an interview with the ATP. «Look, Roger was an idol of mine growing up. It would have been wrong not to get something from his last match. He was very nice, and I sleep with it from time to time.»

He might have been joking – but it was impossible to know for sure. Tsitsipas is hoping that brush with greatness as a member of Team World will carry him toward the finish line of the 2022 season. He was the fourth player to qualify for the Pepperstone ATP Live Race to Turin, following Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud.

On Wednesday, he advanced to the quarter-finals in Kazakhstan, winning two tight tie-breakers against 19-year-old Italian qualifier Luca Nardi. The score was 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) and afterward Tsitsipas warmly congratulated Nardi, who won his first-ever ATP Tour-level match in the first round over qualifier Alexander Shevchenko.

That gives the Greek star 51 victories in 2022, one behind ATP Tour leader and World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. Tsitsipas can equal that total with a victory in Friday’s quarter-final against the winner of Thursday’s Center Court match between No. 7 seed Hubert Hurkacz and local hero Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan.

Before the event began, Tsitsipas was asked if shared similarities with Hurkacz, the easy going Polish player.

«I am pretty loud on social media, though,» Tsitsipas said, referring to his prolific posts on Instagram (1.7 million followers) and Twitter. «I’m pretty quiet in real life, but I like to share some opinions here and there. I would say we’re on the quiet side, I would say he keeps everything to himself, extremely talented.»

It’s been a terrific year for Tsitsipas, a first-round winner in Astana over Mikhail Kukushkin. He reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open, losing to Daniil Medvedev. Then he won the ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo and reached two other 1000 finals, in Rome (losing to Djokovic) and Cincinnati (Borna Coric). He also won on the grass in Mallorca, the ninth title of his young career.

For Tsitsipas, those Laver Cup emotions carried over well beyond Federer’s final match.

«I was crying that night,» Tsitsipas said. «The most surprising thing was how emotional I was the morning after. You would think everything would be let out. But I was in full tears in my breakfast in the morning.

«You see all the beautiful moments go by – I think that’s what you take the most when you share Roger’s amazing retirement. I don’t think you could do it any better with his teammates. I wish one day my retirement can be like that.»

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