Stefanos Tsitsipas is coming little by little in the tennis elite. The 19-year-old Greek player cracked top 80 rankings earlier this month, earning more than 100 places in the last year. This week he is competing, through the main draw wild card, in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he reached the second round overcoming Mikhail Kukushkin, and he will now face Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Interviewed by Tennis Magazin, Tsitsipas spoke about his career and tennis development in his country. There were a lot of top players over the years with Greek roots: Pete Sampras, Mark Philippoussis, Nick Kyrgios, Marcos Baghdatis, Thanasi Kokkinakis.
But there aren't top players from Greece. Why? 'Good question. In Greece tennis is still considered a sport for richer people, very similar to golf', said Tsitsipas. 'It's also an individual sport. Greeks prefer team sports.
This is the Greek mentality. Tennis is not that popular like football or basket. I am trying, with Maria Sakkari, to change it. She is already in the top 50, I am now in the top 100.' 'Tournaments, travel, hotel, training. I do everything covering expenses by myself, I don't get anything from the federation', Tsitsipas revealed.
'It's like this since I was little. It was difficult at the beginning, because costs are extremely high. There were many moments where I thought whether it was worth. Now the effort paid off.' He is one of the few players who hit the one handed backhand.
How did it happen? 'It was my choice. At the beginning I was a little bit confused. When I was seven or eight, my coach asked me: "Did you finally decide how you want to hit the backhand? Because we have been waiting for years".
That year, I choose the one handed and everything changed.' Asked if he has chosen it because of Roger Federer's influence on him, Tsitsipas replied: 'Yes, he was my big idol. I like his gamestyle and I wanted to follow what he does.' At Wimbledon Tsitsipas lost to Dusan Lajovic in the first round.
The winner would have faced Federer next. How did he feel about that loss? 'I think to have thought too much about that possinle match and it was one of the main reasons why I didn't win', Tsitsipas revealed. 'I was too excited for what could have happened in the future and I wasn't focused on the present.
But I was lucky: the day after, Ivan Ljubicic called me saying if I wanted to train with Federer. I replied yes of course. He was friendly and asked me for suggestions to face Lajovic.' ALSO READ: Revealed: The real reason behind Roger Federer skipping Dubai Open