‘A lot of drama’: United Cup sees the return of the famous Tsitsipas bathroom break
There was a display of sheer grit from the Greek as he begins another season in search of a maiden Grand Slam title
Stefanos Tsitsipas admitted it himself – his singles match on Day 1 of the United Cup against Grigor Dimitrov had “a lot of drama”, and it wasn’t just because of the sizzling tennis on display.
Observers may have smiled wryly as the Greek took a bathroom break in his 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) win – and he noted afterwards that being able to walk away from the court at the end of the first set helped him to concentrate ready for the second.
“Both of us I think were serving extremely well during the course of the entire match,” he said. “There weren’t a lot of moments that I felt like I could do something except the second set, which went really smoothly from my side.
“I went to the bathroom, I tried to regain my focus levels and kind of processed what was going on in the first set. I came back fresher and very determined, which gave me a double break in the second set, something, you know, better than I was aiming for. I think that it was a very good sort of memory that I created in that particular match today.
“Third set, both of us serving high percentages of first serve, using our forehands to attack and open the court. You know, similar gaming styles, in a way. We were fighting it out on the court. Made ourselves all the way to the tiebreaker.
“From there on, I knew that it’s all about one mistake, who is going to make the least mistakes, who is going to be the most focused out of the two. You know, Grigor gave an unforced error from the first point of the tiebreaker. I knew that this is my moment to really go for it. I tried to suppress all emotions. I tried to stay within the moment, let any negative thoughts out of my head, and I continued and cruised from that point onwards.”
It was a nice way for the world No 4 to bounce back from a disappointing end to the 2022 season at the ATP year-end finals, when he lost two of his three round-robin matches – although he did of course look strong as he lifted the trophy at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition just before Christmas.
However, it was not just any win. It was his 250th tour-level win, and his sixth win over his Bulgarian opponent, extending his head-to-head lead to 6-1.
And it may also have brought back some unpleasant memories for Dimitrov, who must have been casting his mind back to Rome in May, when Tsitsipas again beat him in three sets – the final one going to a tiebreak, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (4).
Tsitsipas: You’ve got to fight
Tsitsipas has, of course, drawn criticism previously for the timing of his trips to the bathroom – leading to the ATP introducing a new rule limiting those breaks to three minutes.
So it was not as if he had plenty of time to talk himself into a new mindset. Instead, he explained afterwards, he simply gritted his teeth.
“You have just got to fight,” he said. “There is no easy solution, no easy recipe in order to win that match. So, you know, I knew that deep inside I have been faced with those situations a lot of times in my career.
“The opponent might relax. The opponent might start being a bit looser, not being as concentrated, but, you know, you have one more opportunity to prove yourself out on the court and I did.”
His match today gave Greece a 2-0 lead over Bulgaria after Despina Papamichail also won her singles encounter, beating Isabella Shinikova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.