01:45 AM GMT November 11, 2018
Stefanos Tsitsipas has experienced a wide range of emotions at the Fiera Milano, the home of the Next Gen ATP Finals. Last year, the Greek missed out on qualifying for the tournament, serving as an alternate. That was disappointing to say the least.
Leaving Milan this time around, Tsitsipas’ emotions are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. His story is no secret, climbing from No. 91 in the ATP Rankings to No. 15 thanks to a series of impressive accomplishments including his maiden ATP World Tour title in Stockholm and four Top 10 victories in Toronto.
Tsitsipas topped off his tremendous 2018 by lifting the trophy at the Next Gen ATP Finals. The journey has been a lot to take in.
“I've learned a lot. I've learned that I'm a fighter. That I have a big heart. Especially in tough moments like today, let's say my attitude was right,” Tsitsipas said. “I didn't crack under pressure despite losing those two match points that I had on his serve. I stayed in the match. I fought.”
Tsitsipas faced second seed Alex de Minaur in the final, appearing in danger in the fourth set after letting slip two match points, including one off of his patented inside-in forehand. But the Greek refused to leave Milan disappointed, closing out the match in the ensuing tie-break.
“I can play really good under pressure, play my best game under pressure, and it was a great week. [I’ve] been serving amazing. Hopefully I can serve like this next year in every single tournament,” said Tsitsipas, who saved 72 per cent of the break points he faced in the tournament. “I think I have a great game under pressure, and I can be very aggressive and very scary sometimes with the tennis I play. I can just take the ball so early and make my opponents confused and make them take a step back, which is rare.”
As his father, Apostolos Tsitsipas, said after his son triumphed, this is a special moment. And while Tsitsipas will certainly enjoy the victory, it is also another step on his journey. The Greek wants to continue moving forward.
“The next step is doing good and playing well in Grand Slams… [and] doing well in most of the tournaments that I'm going to play next year. I'm going to be seeded, I guess, in most of them, so I'm going to have to treat it right and take advantage of my [ATP] Ranking, take advantage of my situation,” Tsitsipas said. “My focus will be on [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000s and Grand Slams. I'm going to try to pull out my best game there. Obviously it's going to be tough. Other players want the same thing.”
The same way Tsitsipas’ 76-spot rise in 2018 did not come without hard work, the Greek knows that while he can enjoy this moment, the road is not over. That means there is more hard work to come.
“I want to have a good preseason this year. Load myself with fitness, with lots of mental sessions with my mental coach, which I believe helps me a lot,” Tsitsipas said. “[I want to] refresh and enter into 2019 stronger and better, just a better Stefanos than 2018.”
For now, Tsitsipas has earned himself a break. From four tour-level match wins to claiming 46 this season alone, the Milan champion has grown plenty. Now, the time has come to let it all sink in.
“My vacation in Cyprus,” said a smiling Tsitsipas of what he’s looking forward to. “Laying on the beach, thinking about nothing. Forget social media, forget my phone. Throw it in the trash can. Just me, myself, and I.”