'There’s no looking back anymore, my eyes are looking into the future' - Stefanos Tsitsipas says he has no regrets
Ahead of his third appearance at the prestigious ATP Finals, Stefanos Tsitsipas exclusively spoke to Reem Abulleil about being misunderstood, his aspirations for the future and why he has no regrets. Tsitsipas, 23, beat Dominic Thiem to win the 2019 event and says that "it’s one of the best events to leave your last breath on the court and show your best tennis."
This image was converted to black and white) Stefanos Tsitipas of Greece looks on during singles match against against Alexei Popyrin of Australia on Day Three of the Rolex Paris Masters at AccorHotels Arena on November 03, 2021 in Paris, France
Ahead of his third appearance at the prestigious season finale, Tsitsipas can draw lots of confidence from his 2019 triumph, and knows what it takes to navigate a unique competition that pits the top eight players of the year against one another.
“The key is to show up every single day for work and be present and just play your game,” Tsitsipas told Eurosport, ahead of his Monday ATP Finals opener against Andrey Rublev in the tournament’s new host city of Turin.
The level is at its highest and you have to adjust to that and play the tennis that you’ve never played before. It doesn’t get higher than that.
"It’s one of the best events to leave your last breath on the court and show your best tennis. I love everything about the Finals. I love that we get to expose who we really are at this last tournament of the year and play against the best."
As the world No.4 prepares for the action in northern Italy, his compatriot Maria Sakkari is competing in the women’s equivalent tournament in Guadalajara, marking the first time a Greek man and a Greek woman have qualified together for the Finals on their respective tours.
The duo have been making history for Greek tennis with their achievements these past few years and competed in mixed doubles at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where they lost to Aussie pair Ashleigh Barty and John Peers in the quarter-finals.
“I’m proud of her, and I’m proud that we’re both doing this together, each one of us representing our sport at different genders,” Tsitsipas said of Sakkari.
“We’re really pushing each other, we’re doing great. I think we’re able to create some positive and good memories together in this sport and I really hope we can do this for many more years.
I think she has the game to do better and she also is a person that works the most out of every single player in the top 10.
'Becoming even more professional'
Working hard is something Tsitsipas is very familiar with. His name frequently comes up when tennis’ Big Three of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are asked to single out a player from the younger generation that is the most dedicated to his professional career.
But having cracked the top three earlier this season and with a maiden Grand Slam final appearance at Roland Garros under his belt, Tsitsipas believes he still needs to get more meticulous with his approach in order to take that extra step towards winning majors and breaking into the world’s top two.
“It’s paying attention to detail, which eventually makes the big differences; certainly becoming even more professional than I am now,” the 23-year-old said on Friday. “I consider myself doing the best for my career and wanting the best for my career. But I think it will take a few extra steps in order to get to that level that I’m really aspiring for next year.
It’s going to be from competing smarter, eating healthier, not staying up late, things like this, I assume.
Tsitsipas admits he felt like “things became too much” at various moments this year. He struggled with bubble fatigue and having to travel week in, week out, mid-pandemic.
“Over the years I've kept myself so distracted with work and travel that I didn't have the time to allow myself to feel as happy or as sad as I should have,” he wrote in an Instagram post last September.
Tsitsipas says he’s been working with sports psychologists since he was 12 years old and has learned over time to pay more and more attention to his mental health.
“By loving myself, by investing in myself, I think it’s very important doing so, improving your mental health and working towards mental issues,” he explains.
The Monaco resident is a man of many interests and his extracurricular activities provide a necessary refuge for him away from the intensity of the tennis tour. He has a favourite philosopher (Plato), produces lofi music tracks, creates video content for his YouTube channel, and cites Ancient Greek history as his biggest source of inspiration.
His passion for content creation has seen him collaborate with the likes of ‘Yes Theory’ and viral internet sensation ‘Dude with Sign’, whom he recently met at the US Open. On Friday in Turin, he posted a video on court with Senegalese-born Khaby Lame, who is the second-most followed TikToker in the world.
Minimalism, philosophy and being misunderstood
Recently, Tsitsipas has taken a special interest in the concept of minimalism, which may sound surprising to hear from a young millionaire professional tennis player who lives in Monte Carlo.
“I’ve been reading interesting books that talk about minimalism and how excess is not necessary to make you feel happy and how less can be more sometimes,” he said in a press conference on Friday.
“I think minimalism is a great concept and it works great for me. There are many types of minimalism; it doesn’t mean you have to get rid of every single thing that you own. But for me, de-cluttering and starting fresh with the types of things that I need in my life has helped me a lot with my struggle with a little bit of anxiety and some other things too.”
Tsitsipas’ frequent cryptic messages on social media, philosophical tweets or inspirational quotes don’t always strike the right chord with fans online. His quirky personality means he can sometimes feel disconnected from others and he concedes that he wished more people understood his views on the world.
There is misunderstanding for sure, many people don’t get my ideology and philosophy behind what I’m doing, and that’s okay.
"I just wish I had more people – I mean I do have a lot of people that stand behind me, but I wish I could correlate with more people that share the same traits and personality as me," he mused.
“I feel like a lot of people don’t want to dig very deep and get to the point where their mind expands, they’re just stuck in their comfort zone.
“I don’t feel very comfortable being in my comfort zone. I want to exceed that and create other opportunities by doing things beyond that.”
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'Some kids don’t have good relationships with their parents'
Early last year, Tsitsipas told reporters in Dubai that he wished his parents were less involved in his professional career. He has been coached by his father, Apostolos, his entire life, and his mother, former professional player Julia, is a constant presence with him on tour. She attended a press conference that week in the Emirates to quiz him about his previous statements about the family.
) Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece attends a training session with his father Apostolos Tsitsipas
Image credit: Getty Images
“I’ve actually had a great relationship with my parents the last couple of years. When I spoke I was going through a difficult moment, and I thought not having them during my competition would have been better but I actually became closer to my parents than ever before in those couple of weeks and have developed a great relationship with them,” Tsitsipas assured on Friday.
“We’re able to understand each other and cope with each others’ emotions. It’s important that we reached that level, because that was the level I always aimed for to have that sort of relationship with them, and I’m glad we’re heading towards that.
They’ve been there since the very start and I just see no reason to kind of eliminate them and not have them part of my journey.
He added: “Some kids I know they don’t have good relationships with their parents and they find it difficult to have the parents involved in their business; I’ve always had a good relationship with my parents, that’s why I included them in my career and I had belief that they can actually help me and help my tennis grow.
“That was the reason my dad was there from the very beginning. It hasn’t been as easy with some of my other siblings, but with me the chemistry has always been there and I see that as something the others don’t have. And I think it’s important that I have it in my life.”
Learning from mistakes and no regrets
Tsitsipas told Vogue magazine in an interview in May that one of his goals for the season was to end the year at the summit of the match-wins leaderboard. He arrives in Turin as the joint leader in that category, tied with Alexander Zverev with 55 victories amassed in 2021.
Looking back at his season, he insists he has no regrets and is keen to get his campaign started in Turin, where he shares a group with Rublev, Djokovic and first-time qualifier Casper Ruud.
“I’ve learned from my mistakes. I had many times during this year where I wasn’t feeling my best, but still I managed to overcome the obstacles and deal with certain situations; some other situations not,” he says.
I don’t really have regrets because I tried, at that time, to do the best I knew. There’s no looking back anymore, my eyes are looking into the future.
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