Australian Open 2023: Stefanos Tsitsipas possibly a week away from becoming world No.1

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Stefanos Tsitsipas freely shares his artistic and philosophical thoughts. But, writes ADAM PEACOCK, most artists don‘t have win-loss records.

As Melbourne ripped into a summer Friday night, laneway bars heaving and riverside restaurants buzzing, Stefanos Tsitsipas shared his innermost thoughts on Twitter from the quiet solitude of his hotel room.

“Tennis is an art form, graced with elegance and poise that transforms into a mesmerising, dance-like performance when viewed in slow motion and set to the melodic accompaniment of music.”

For Tsitsipas, the mind is a gift, wasted if constrained by convention.

Double faults, first serve percentage, flattening out the background? They’re part of a bigger picture. Life is there to be discovered, in the world according to Stefanos, and the mind is what will get him where he wants to be.

Right now, that’s the world No.1 ranking.

It could be a week away.

A few hours before Tsitsipas punched out his latest tweet of artistic thought – and there have been a few hundred – he breezed through to the fourth round, rhythmically dismantling Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, all facets of his arrangement in perfect unison.

And then he sat down for a chat with CODE Sports.

Not to talk about the win, but rather how his mind works.

“I never enjoy being a basic version of myself,” Tsitsipas says.

“I’ve seen that with a lot of people. I try to bring and deliver something different to the table. Words matter a lot, and that has been my approach through my entire life. Actions and words matter.”

Words have accompanied his actions on a tennis court, which has sent him around the world. Playing and learning. Developing as a player and person.

A hobby is to recite quotes, or invent his own, to share on social media.

“Brag about your library of books, not your house or car,” he typed in December.

“All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism,” he offered in October.

“Hanging out with your parents is not boring,” was an appraisal from April.

Tsitsipas reads, listens and takes in the world around him.

Which brings us to a point in our conversation which prompts a period of contemplative silence.

What is the best bit of advice, Stefanos, that you’ve acted on?

Twenty seconds pass before thoughts are collected and formed into an answer.

“It’s from my father telling me to be fearless. Nothing to be afraid of out of the court,” Tsitsipas says eventually.

Opponents may chortle at this.

For years, Tsitsipas has been accused of being coached from the stands by his father, Apostolos.

It is what led to Daniil Medvedev losing his mind last year in Melbourne and calling the umpire a “small cat” for not penalising the Greek for being coached during the match (a rule which no longer exists).

But Tsitsipas isn’t talking about a specific moment on the court. It’s a sweeping statement that aligns with his thinking about tennis holistically and, broader still, life in general.

“The best thing you have on court is your freedom, express yourself freely,” he continues about his father’s life lesson.

“You’re sort of like an artist.

“You do your thing freely, it’s your touch. Lot of players get tight, nervous, it’s important in these moments to be free.”

It would be a mistake to ascribe Tsitsipas’ considered theories, philosophies and soliloquies as being unsuited to the ruthless, single-minded world of professional tennis.

This is not a mystic vagabond in search of the meaning of life, travelling the globe, sharing the deepest of thoughts, without direction.

Art has no rules.

And artists don’t have win-loss records.

Rather, Tsitsipas craves what all players want: to be the best.

Victory at the Australian Open would not only represent his first grand slam title, it would also see him usurp the absent Carlos Alcaraz for the world No. 1 ranking.

He just wants to do it his way, conventionally or otherwise.

“It means maxing out in what I do,” he says.

The 24-year-old has been a contender since bursting to prominence by wiping Roger Federer out of the 2019 Australian Open. Unshaven, relatively unknown, wavy hair held back by a headband, looking every part the busker thrust onto the main stage at Splendour, stealing the limelight from the headliner.

Soon after, Tsitsipas broke into the top ten, and has been there ever since without going higher than No.3.

There have been searing triumphs along the way, as well as eight titles. There have also been crushing defeats, notably the 2021 French Open final loss to Novak Djokovic when leading two sets to love.

The big picture, though, is what occupies Tsitsipas’ mind as he searches for the missing pieces required to claim top spot, acutely aware that the three men ranked above him – Alcaraz (injured), as well as the defeated duo of Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud – can do no damage this year at Melbourne Park.

“I’ve definitely grown mentally and spiritually as well when I’m out of the court,” he says when comparing himself to the young upstart who defeated Federer in 2019.

“I know that’s very deep what I just said, but it’s true. I can see a different me, an upgraded me on the court.

“Back then, playing with that ‘new guy on the tour mentality’, fearless and completely free, you just go for everything. Compared to now, much more reserved, much more compact in many ways.”

Maturity is key.

The defeats, many of them crushing, that have impeded his journey to No. 1 might end up being the reason he eventually makes it.

“Sometimes you can play very good tennis and still lose,” Tsitsipas offers. “These losses can be so good for you. Most people would beat themselves down after a loss. It’s just very important to give yourself another chance again.

“The emotions are not always negative when it’s not your day.”

Adam Peacock

Starting as a cadet, Adam spent nearly a decade at the Seven Network, before a 15 year stint at Fox Sports covering football, tennis, cricket, Olympics and jousting. Fave teams are the Socceroos, Matildas, Newcastle Utd, Manly, while hobbies include watching sport, eating food, sleeping and waking up to do the same.

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