01:55 AM GMT August 03, 2019
There’s a new hashtag that might trend on social media Friday evening, and it has nothing to do with hot shots or bloopers. Call it #ShoeGate2019.
It all stems from an unusual moment in the quarter-finals of the Citi Open. Stefanos Tsitsipas was serving at 7-5, 2-0 40/40 against Benoit Paire when he had to return to his chair to change his sneaker. The top seed’s left shoelace sometimes breaks on the last hole when he slides into a forehand.
It was the third time this week the Greek superstar had this problem, leading to a delay, and Paire was not thrilled waiting given he was making a push to get back on serve in the second set.
“In a way he was right that it happened many times in the past. There is nothing I can do about it. The only thing is probably [to] change my footwork,” Tsitsipas said. “I've been struggling with it, one of few players that has been struggling with it. I'm not doing it on purpose. Some people think I'm doing it on purpose. It always happens in crucial moments like this when I'm really trying hard, giving everything out on the court, trying to get every single ball back. That's when it happens.
“It's very irritating for me to keep playing with a shoe that's not tight. It can fall off at any moment during the rally.”
After play resumed, Paire lost the next point. But instead of shifting sides of the court, the Frenchman went back to his chair, deciding he needed to change his own sneaker, chucking one that he took off away. That elicited plenty of laughter and cheers from the crowd as he did it. Paire presumably did not need to make the change, but he wanted to make a point.
“That was funny,” Tsitsipas said. “I didn't know whether I have to laugh or keep a serious face. It was hilarious.”
Instead of breaking back, Paire lost the next game and the three after that to see his run come to an end in Washington, D.C. But all is well that ends well, as there were no hard feelings between the competitors. After match point, the two men embraced at the net, sharing a smile with one another. Paire told the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion with a smile, “It’s okay. It was not against you.”
“We're good friends,” Tsitsipas said. “We live in the same region, the south of France. We both practise there. He gets to come to the academy [where I train] pretty often. So I know him pretty well. He's different on court when he plays than what he's off court. There was nothing. He even told me there was nothing between me and him with the shoelace thing.”