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Tsitsipas on Rublev-gate: “I’d like to apologise to Andrey: It’s not how I think about him”

The Greek said his comments at the ATP Finals – when he said the Russian “prevailed with the few tools he has” were meant to fire up Rublev but were a mistake

Tsitsipas and Rublev ATP Finals Turin 2022 Tsitsipas and Rublev ATP Finals Turin 2022 || AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Stefanos Tsitsipas enjoyed an excellent year on the court, one that led to him going into the final event of the year – the ATP Finals – with a chance to become world No 1 for the first time.

But his year ended in controversy thanks to his comments about Andrey Rublev, the Russian who beat him in the group stages and who went on to make the semi-finals.

After the match, Tsitsipas said Rublev had “prevailed with the few tools he has”. Rublev laughed off the comments but it was a topic of discussion for some time, the Greek criticised for a lack of respect.

In an interview with Arab News, Tsitsipas says he would like to apologise to Rublev.

“Andrey is an excellent player. He has a great array of weapons that he uses extremely well on the court. He can hit the ball really hard, he’s sort of like the Marat Safin of the new generation,” Tsitsipas said.

“I don’t think he’s limited in his game, I think he’s put himself over many years now on the tour that he’s capable of competing against the best. He’s one of the most disciplined guys out here, who is very professional towards his work. He’s a very funny guy, a very nice soul, I enjoy being around him. He’s extremely friendly and likes to make fun of himself.

“So if I regret saying that? I do regret saying that, yes. It was not very good for me, I was extremely hurt that I wasn’t able to go all the way at the ATP Finals, it hurt me a lot, I tried to let some bad energy out but that wasn’t the responsible or the good way, even if I wanted something out of it, it wasn’t the right way to do it.

“Definitely if I would see him I would like to apologise to him for thinking like this about him because it’s definitely not how I think about him in reality.”

Tsitsipas: “I wanted him to be mad going into his next match”

Tsitsipas says he was trying to fire up Rublev, so that he would go on to beat Casper Ruud in the semi-finals.

“What I said in that press conference against Rublev was very unfair towards him and not correct,” Tsitsipas said. “I saw it from a sort of different approach; I wanted him to be mad going into his next match (against Ruud), trying to play even better. I’m not going to declare the reasons why because I think it’s quite obvious the situation I was dealing with in the next match if (I) had played that opponent (chasing world No 1)

“I really wanted Andrey to win the next match and my approach was to add fuel to the fire a little bit, to make him want to be more hungry and more concentrated on his next match,” said Tsitsipas, who ended the year ranked No 4.

“I think that was wrong to do, because it felt like, I don’t know, he wasn’t able to perform, I saw the match, I don’t think he performed as good as I would have expected him to perform. That was my only way to finish in the top three if he had won that match.

“I just played a little bit with it and tried to use my chances as much as I could. But of course the best thing would have been to win my match.”

Tsitsipas “extremely close” to being No 1

As it was, Tsitsipas, who is still chasing his first Grand Slam title, missed out on top spot and ended up being headed by Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud.

Nevertheless, Tsitsipas said he is proud of his season.

“There are a few things I can improve and manage better in order to get there, but overall if you think about it, I was literally two matches away (from) finishing world No 1,” he said.

“If I would have won 63 instead of 61 matches — but of course selective, if I had to select which matches I should have won, I could have ended No 1 this season. So that is to show that I was extremely close to get that privilege of being world No 1.”

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