Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2020: Trying to see the bright side
Stefanos Tsitsipas captured one title in 2020, reached the French Open semi-finals, and made it back to the Nitto ATP Finals, but the Greek had a tough year for a number of reasons.
It was an abbreviated season for everyone on tour, and that is probably part of the reason why Stefanos Tsitsipas could not quite maintain any real momentum. Although the 22-year-old did not exactly struggle, he also did not take the so-called next step in his career. It was Dominic Thiem — not Tsitsipas — who achieved a breakthrough by becoming a non-Big 3 Grand Slam champion by triumphing at the US Open. Tsitsipas at least managed to reach a slam semi-final at the French Open but that was the highlight of an otherwise unspectacular stretch of tennis after the tour returned from a five-month coronavirus hiatus.
- Ranking at end of 2019: 6
- Ranking at end of 2020: 6
- 2020 win/loss: 29-14
Best performance: One set from the Roland-Garros final
At Roland-Garros, Tsitsipas lost his first two sets of the entire tournament. He was coming off a gruelling Hamburg final against Andrey Rublev (the Russian won in three sets) and had to kick off his French Open campaign just two days later. Despite obvious fatigue, Tsitsipas came all the way back to beat Jaume Munar in five — kickstarting a run all the way to the semis. That is where the world No 6 ran into Novak Djokovic. After losing the first two sets easily, Tsitsipas showed his mettle, fighting back brilliantly to force a decider, only for the world No 1 to step it up again.
Best Grand Slam result: French Open semi-finals
En route to the last four, Tsitsipas faced Rublev in the quarter-finals, a rematch of their Hamburg final. This time it was the Greek who came out on top, winning the match in straight sets. The semi-final against Djokovic may have ended in disappointment but taking the world No 1 to five sets, in the manner he did, should stand him in good stead for 2021 and beyond.
Titles: 1 – Marseille
Tsitsipas strung together a perfect week to win the title in Marseille in February, dismissing Mikael Ymer, Vasek Pospisil, Alexander Bublik and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the final, all without losing a set to win the fifth tournament of his career.
— Open 13 Provence (@Open13) February 23, 2020
High point: His romp over Rublev
Tsitsipas’ three-set rout of Rublev had to be especially sweet. Having missed out on the title in Hamburg at the hands of the Russian, he got an early chance for revenge and took it, dishing out a straight-sets win in the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros. The first set was the key; Rublev served for the set but an errant forehand allowed Tsitsipas to get the break back and from then on, there was no stopping him as he reached the semi-finals in Paris for the first time.
“Playing like this, fighting and trying to find solutions, it is so satisfying to be able to play at that level,” Tsitsipas said.
Low point: His US Open collapse
Having come into the tournament after making the semis in Cincinnati (also played at Flushing Meadows due to the Coronavirus pandemic), Tsitsipas was tipped by many to go close to his first slam title. And things looked good when he cruised through his first two matches before going up two sets to one on Borna Coric and leading 5-1 in the fourth, serving for the match, but he just could not get over the line. Six match points came and went in the fourth set and though he led by a break in the fifth, Coric ended up winning it in a final-set tiebreak.
On social media
As always, Tsitsipas was active on social media in 2020 and the Greek showed his sense of humour several times, putting a smile on the faces of everyone in a difficult year.
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Off the court
Tsitsipas is a deep thinker who likes to explore, see new places, meet new people, and in general experience new things. He especially has a passion for film, photography, and travel. The Greek documented some of his adventures during his unexpected time off in 2020.
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Self-assessment: An unfulfilling year
After his defeat by Rafael Nadal ended the defence of his ATP Finals title, Tsitsipas was typically honest as he looked back on the year.
“For me, 2020 [was] a very, I would say, unfulfilling year simply because of the situation that we had to face. I will kind of see it as a huge gap in which we had to wait to come back and we were given the opportunity to play from September and on. So I don’t know. You know, only now I do realise that crowd creates more adrenaline when I’m out on the court and gives me, I think to every single player, just gives bigger purpose. It’s just so elevating when you have people watching. I tried my best; I tried my best.
“2020, you know, I had some good results. Some bad losses. Some new things that happened to me that I didn’t face in the past. Some really annoying things and some beautiful things, as well. Things that brought me a lot of joy. Also allowed for me to — despite the pandemic — to connect with certain people and have some fun, as well, you know. Yeah, there were a few positives I can take from that. I will try and forget the negatives, because who needs negativity in this world? Just looking at the bright side of it. Trying to get to the end of the tunnel and see something better in the near future.”
Tennis Majors assessment
It was an abbreviated, up-and-down season for Tsitsipas. Having won the title in Marseille in February, it looked like he was on the right track but his US Open experience will surely have hurt. He bounced back superbly at Roland-Garros to reach the semi-finals, where — against Djokovic — he showed the kind of tennis that could yet make him a Grand Slam champion. A sensitive soul, Tsitsipas ended 2020 by going out in the group stages of the ATP Finals and looked ready for a rest — perhaps mentally more than physically following the demands of a unique year. With some time off to recharge and work on a few things, he will surely be a major threat in 2021.