20 or 30 years ago tennis was a completely different sport than today, not in terms of the rules but in the way it was spread across the world. Big tennis nations with tradition, well-established system of developing the young players, and money, were still the dominant forces in our sport (like USA, Sweden, Germany), but it all started to change around the turn of the millennium.
Smaller nations sent their players to the very top of men's game and tennis became one of the most popular sports on the planet, with all eyes set on Federer and Nadal who pushed the limits of their rivalry ever since 2005.
One of the boys who made his first tennis steps around 2001 was Stefanos Tsitsipas, who started to practice at the hotel where his parents worked (his mother is a solid tennis player). He fell in love with the sport that wasn't popular in his Greece and he showed his immense talent ever since to reach the Top 100 at the end of 2017, putting his country on the main tennis map.
The journey from the unknown tennis country to the elite group of world's players at the age of 19 was anything but easy, without a help from his tennis federation that failed to offer Stefanos the opportunity to travel outside Europe and compete against the broader field of his coevals.
Followed by his father Apostolos, Tsitsipas played all around Europe in U12 and U14 categories and he finally got a chance to travel to the States to compete at the Orange Bowl from 2012, losing the U18 final in both 2014 and 2015 (took down Taylor Fritz and Andrey Rublev) to Stefan Kozlov and Miomir Kecmanovic.
In 2015, Stefanos and his family gathered enough money to make a Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open, reaching the quarter-final, and he played well during the entire season, losing against the players like Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Miomir Kecmanovic.
Also, he went to the Patrick Mouratoglou Academy in Nice and that improved his game a lot, having a chance to work with some high-quality trainers and to practice with world number 1 Novak Djokovic. In May 2016, Stefanos won Trofeo Bonfiglio in Milan, his first Grade A title, and he became junior world number 1 on the next day.
We saw him in the semi-final of both Wimbledon and US Open and he conquered European Junior Championships, beating Corentin Moutet in the title match. The semi-final loss against Felix Auger-Aliassime in New York was his final junior match in a career, ready to embrace the full pro schedule in 2017.
Tsitsipas had a chance to make a pro debut at the age of 15 at home in Greece, playing in 4 Futures in a row and winning one match, and his first Challenger match came in Burnie in February 2015. Stefanos won his first Futures title at Cyprus F1 Futures in November, finishing the season inside the Top 600, and he was ready to fight even stronger in 2016.
3 Futures trophies ended in his hands on spring and he made a breakthrough on the Challenger Tour in Morocco in October, losing in the final of back-to-back events on clay and entering the Top 200 at the end of the month.
The start of 2017 was not that good but he at least managed to qualify for the main draw of Roland Garros and Wimbledon and gather valuable experience, and his first big points of the season came in Genova Challenger where he picked up the title to come closer to the place inside the Top 100.
He qualified for the main draw of the ATP events in Metz, Chengdu, Tokyo, and Shanghai, where he scored his first ATP win, beating Karen Khachanov in straight sets before losing to John Isner in 2 tie breaks. Competing for the 7th consecutive week, Stefanos qualified for the ATP 250 tournament in Antwerp (the second player born in 1998 in an ATP semis, after Casper Ruud) and he stunned world number 10 David Goffin to advance to the semi-final where he fell to Diego Schwartzman.
A week later, young Greek concluded his season at Brest Challenger, losing in the title match against another teenager Corentin Moutet, and everything he achieved in the last 2 months gave him the opportunity to crack the Top 100 and finish the season as the second youngest player in the elite group, behind Denis Shapovalov.
Equipped with an eastern grip forehand and one-handed backhand (it was his choice), Stefanos built a solid all-around game with a powerful serve and mighty forehand that will cause a lot of damage on the Tour in the years to come.
His backhand is also a very consistent shot, creating a lot of topspin from that wing and staying in the point long enough to shift the trajectory to his forehand or to move forward to the net. Also, we saw some great defense from that backhand in Antwerp and that will for sure help him to score more big wins in 2018 against the players doesn't make too many errors.
Stefanos will have to work a lot on his return, especially how to crack opponent's first serve that travels to his backhand and if he accomplishes this it will give him more room in his service games and confidence to attack on a regular basis and keep the points on his racquet.
One thing is for sure, Tsitsipas is eager to work on his game constantly and it would be amazing if he manages to consolidate himself in the Top 50 by the end of 2018, possessing all the weapons to challenge players ranked above him on every surface.
Talented Greek spent the last couple of weeks training at Mouratoglou Academy in Nice and in Monte Carlo, together with Tomas Berdych, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov, and he will kick off his 2018 season in the qualifying draw of ATP 250 event in Brisbane, one of the strongest event in that category in the entire year.