On Sunday the 2018 NextGen winner, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and the veteran, Stanislas Wawrinka, gave the Roland Garros the match of the tournament: a five + hour gladiatorial battle that pinned two generations against each other.
It was probably the match of the year. The fourth quarter clash between the two one-handed backhanders had the 20 year-old Greek talent employing his aggressive all-around game by rushing the net, while the 34 year-old Swiss Wawrinka answered with devastating shot-making that sailed past to kiss the sidelines.
It was a phenomenal back-and-forth, messy, bloody affair that left both players exhausted. Between Tsitisipas's diving and Wawrinka's brutal angles, the match was a testy event that brought tempers simmering to the surface.
Eventually, Stan Wawrinka prevailed, perhaps demonstrating a bit more steely nerve than his much younger opponent, closing out the win in five tough sets, 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 8-6. He left behind a mentally drained Tsitsipas, who admitted to breaking down afterwards.
“Long time that—long time since I cried after a match,” Tsitsipas said during his press conference afterwards, “so emotionally wasn’t easy to handle. I will try to learn from it as much as I can”.
It was the furthest the world No. 6 Tsitsipas has progressed in a grand slam. The marathon match gave him the battle-weary experience that he has clearly absorbed. His mental fortitude left him at times, as evidenced by the temper that resulted in him trashing his water bottles and painfully hitting his forehead during the tense last set.
But he is only 20. However, upon reflection, the intelligent player posted two very telling tweets. Stan Wawrinka took the time to comfort the Greek player at the net, and the 20-year-old was introspective of his praise for the older player who has been slowly building himself back from injury.
Tsitsipas's rapid rise has been nothing short of revelatory, with the tennis marvel ascending the ranks in the ATP in an extremely short time.
He broke through the Top 100 at the end of 2017, and and already cracked the Top 10 just over a month ago. He's won two ATP titles this year, one on hard courts, and the Estoril clay tourney, leading up to Roland Garros.
Although Rafael Nadal has beaten him twice this year, Tsitsipas holds a rare win over the Spaniard, which he achieved a few months ago at the Madrid Masters event. He famously ousted Roger Federer from this year's Australian Open, although the Swiss was able to avenge the loss later at Dubai.
Novak Djokovic beat him in Madrid, but again Tsitsipas claims their only other clash at the 2018 Canadian Open. The 20-year-old is finding answers to the Big Three, and it's only a matter of time when he starts breaking through farther in slams and Masters 1000 events.
Stefanos Tsitsipas may have lost the match of his life, but he's getting closer to winning these breakthrough bouts. Stefanos Tsitsipas sits in third place in the Race to London. Next up for him is grass-court season, his surest surface, and where he's certain to continue his quest to shake things up on the ATP circuit.
He's already established himself as a major contender for more titles. It's only a matter of time when his time emerges and the Big Three winds down.
Today was the first time in my entire life, in my twenty years of existence that I felt that “aura”, the real definition of the word, competition. Not any kind of competition though, it felt different than any other time, any other battle, any other moment on the tennis court.
There is something about today that I won’t be able to explain. It’s a feeling that makes me appreciate the sport that I chose to pursue in my life as a career. The bitter taste of that loss is something unexplainable.
@stanwawrinka85 makes our sport real and pragmatic. It’s something that’s rare to find in the world that we are at. It’s something unique. There is loads of charm and charisma to it. We both struggled, we both went beyond our limits, we both experienced luck and our destiny was drawn on that Parisian court after five hours of physical and mental suffering.
I really don’t know if what I feel right now is positive or negative. There is no bipolar effect to it. Today I learned something that no school, no classroom, no teacher would be able to teach. It’s called, living life!