"I'm really happy I proved myself today and played one of my best games...I'm fighting. I'm in the zone. I'm enjoying tennis at its fullest potential...today's victory is an unbelievable feeling..."
Stefanos Tsitsipas had said during a press conference after beating Rafael Nadal in the Madrid semifinal. "You always feel like you have to play the best shots, make the best approach...players like Rafa are very, very difficult to face.
I recall it is the toughest match I had up to this day..." he had added. Many would say now winning more and elevating up the rankings is 'a piece of cake', or is it? Well, not particularly. But Tsitsipas is slowly building up his resume as defeating big named players.
It was from the start of this season he did well at the Australian Open winning over Roger Federer in the round of 16 and then Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarterfinal. The Dubai event was challenging for Tsitsipas but he kept his composure and strategies intact to defeat France's Gael Monfils.
He had felt his tennis career was coming together well, getting mentally stronger as he moved on to Miami winning over the NextGen Denis Shapovalov and then digging out his victory over Belgium's David Goffin at the Estoril Open and the Open 13 events.
Things weren't always going well for the young Greek as he recalls the difficult times saying "I almost felt like I lost hope at some point. I lost three in a row...this match gave me confidence that I can do better in the future...: he referring to winning over Rafael Nadal in the Madrid semifinal.
Nadal was always called 'the King of Clay' winning over 50 titles on the red surface, but Tsitsipas adds that "Beating him on clay makes it more special..." Nadal has lost Barcelona and now Madrid. He has got to be wondering if his magic touch for clay has to be re-invented or can it be, with the younger generation coming up.
Tsitsipas gruelling battle with Nadal gave him some advantages and disadvantages as he entered the final with another tough opponent, Novak Djokovic. The Greek has gathered the experience of playing top rankers and often time winning.
The tactics he knew how to display such as returning much better, being patient and opening up the court was crucial in his Nadal victory. But it was a tough match and a long one, going to bed past 3 in the morning to later in the day face Djokovic in the final might have been a no-brainer.
He had never competed with the Serbian on clay and had wondered how would he come out victorious getting the Madrid title. The results weren't favourable as Tsitsipas fell to the Djokovic victory of 6-3, 6-4. Stefanos Tsitsipas looks back on last year of which he could have never accomplished what he does today.
He says of his strategies that he feels "more experienced and fitter and more courageous and mentally tougher than the year before." He still has his job cut out for him despite winning over superior ranked players and knows that every opponent is a challenge but getting those big wins matter and says "..I have to be mentally prepared for a tough match..."
from basically all players. Stefanos Tsitsipas knows that in order to move up the rankings and perfect his game significantly he has to stay not only physically fit but mentally tough all the time.