06:03 AM GMT October 06, 2018
Stefanos Tsitsipas became only the second player to qualify for the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals on Friday in Tokyo. Greece's #NextGenATP star booked his maiden appearance at the prestigious event, to be held 6-10 November in Milan, when #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov fell to Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018.
The 20-year-old Greek, who joins Alexander Zverev as Milan qualifiers, has enjoyed a breakout season on the ATP World Tour, reaching two ATP World Tour finals – at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (l. to Nadal) and the Rogers Cup (l. to Nadal), an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Toronto. Below are five things to know about one of the favourites to take home the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals title.
1. He Made History In Toronto
At the Rogers Cup in August, Tsitsipas, then 19, became the youngest player in ATP World Tour history (since 1990) to beat four Top 10 players. The #NextGenATP Greek beat No. 8 Dominic Thiem, No. 10 Novak Djokovic, saved two match points to beat No. 3 Alexander Zverev and then saved another match point before beating No. 6 Kevin Anderson. Tsitsipas fell in the final against No. 1 Rafael Nadal for the second time this season. The Greek became the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since 19-year-old Novak Djokovic at 2007 Miami.
2. He Nearly Drowned Three Years Ago
In 2015, Tsitsipas was enjoying a day off with some friends while competing at a Futures tournament in Heraklion, Greece. They went for a swim in the ocean, but didn't realise the strength of the waves. Soon, Tsitsipas was 25 metres away from the shore and struggling to breathe. But his father saw him struggling, and rescued him.
“The only time in my life that I felt that I'm a few seconds away from dying,” Tsitsipas said.
Watch: Tsitsipas Recalls The Day His Dad Saved His Life
3. He Bleeds Blue
Tsitsipas is extremely proud to be leading his country and regularly making Greek tennis history. Last year, he became the first Greek player to reach an ATP World Tour quarter-final and semi-final (Antwerp) and to break into the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. This season, Tsitsipas became only the second Greek to reach a tour-level final (also Kalogeropoulos at 1973 Des Moines).
As his country worked to recover from the horrific fires that devastated parts of Greece in July, Tsitsipas shared his emotions in this first-person essay for ATPWorldTour.com. “It was as if we were landing in Hell. Everywhere we looked, we saw fire,” he wrote.
4. He Has An Alternate Instagram Personality
Want to follow Tsitsipas on Instagram? You have a couple of options. You can follow his official account, @stefanostsitsipas98, where he mostly posts about tennis. But if you want to follow his alternate personality, give @stevethehawk a follow. Tsitsipas uses the account to document his travels.
5. He Has A Mixed Heritage
Tsitsipas' father, Apostolos, is Greek, but his mother, Julia Salnikova, is Russian and was a top Soviet player in the 1980s. Both parents have helped Tsitsipas reach No. 15 in the ATP Rankings, his career-high. His father helped develop his aggressive game and his one-handed backhand; Tsitsipas' mother instilled discipline in her son.