Tennis Prose



The New King Is Here, His Name is Stefanos

By Scoop Malinowski

This is the week the new king has emerged. First it was the slaying of the reigning Wimbledon champion two days ago and today he conquered the defending Cincy Open titlist and world no. 3 36 76 64.

That’s enough evidence for me. Stefanos Tsitsipas is the prince who will soon be wearing the king’s crown.

You know Tsitsipas is a threat to the ATP hierarchy when his conquest denies giving credit. Alexander
Zverev said this after his loss to the Greek today: “I don’t think he played that well. I think the match was absolutely pathetic on all levels. I’m very honest with you guys (press). Today was an absolute pathetic match I don’t even think he played well.”

Zverev didn’t bite his tongue. “To be honest, we played three sets and all three sets should have been 3-3 and 3 if we played best of five. That’s what the score should have been.”

Sounds like the frazzled words of a very confident player who was struck by shocking loss he did not expect. Much like a dominant world champion boxer who gets suddenly caught by a knockout punch and loses his title to an opponent nobody gave much chance to. Just last week in Washington DC, Zverev dominated Tsitsipas in a 63 62 win.

Stunningly, the 19-year-old figured out his errors and turned the tables on the player many tennis experts feel is very close to winning his first major and eventually becoming no. 1.

But now suddenly it’s Tsitsipas who looks like he can leapfrog the rather large group of elite players who have still not won their first major titles – Thiem, Zverev, Goffin, Kei, Raonic, Sock, Berdych.

There is something very special about Tsitsipas. Today’s win over Zverev marked another rare, special achievement – Tsitsipas is the youngest player since Rafael Nadal in 2006 to win three straight matches vs ATP top 10 players in one tournament.

The loss is particularly painful for Zverev because he should not have lost today. Tsitsipas hit 28 winners and 42 errors and won 15 of 22 points at net…AZ will be kicking himself. Most disturbing for Zverev is he served for the match, had two match points and was just 5/14 on break points. He had the victory in his jaws but failed to complete the job.

Now it’s Tsitsipas who is the new kid in town, the flamboyant, sensational, magician escape artist who everyone will be talking about and going out of there way to watch.

Wins like today and vs Djokovic are the ones that change the balance of power in a sport.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · August 12, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    Catherine, there have been several teen girl prodigies but they fall by the wayside – Bencic, Zhuk, Liu, Bellis, Badosa Gibert, Kenin, Osaka, Keys, Robson, Dokic, Stevenson, Urszula Radwanska, Pavlyuchenkova, Bouchard, Kiki, Larcher de Brito, etc. I think it’s harder for the young girls to make the transition to big superstar before the age of 21, it’s just too young too much and abnormal life. I think subconsciously a lot of these girl players realize how demanding it is to be a superstar and shy away from it. Look at four of the biggest stars – Kournikova, Seles, Graf, Sabatini, Capriati, Henin – all four are kind of reclusive now and keep a distance from the game. It’s almost a better, more normal, more appealing life to be ranked below the top 3 or even 10, just blend in with the crowd. Being a top woman player is not as glamorous as it looks.

  • catherine · August 12, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Well, many are called and few are chosen – it’s those who have the gift and the drive who make the top, and then may not want to stay around in later life.

    We can’t expect great players more than once or twice a generation and I’d like to think we’re due for someone now.

  • catherine · August 12, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Simona wins in 3 sets – WTA will be disappointed. From the amount I saw it was not a terribly interesting match – mainly baseline rallying, which could have been predicted.

  • Hartt · August 12, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Rafa cruised through the first set, but Stefanos made the 2nd set more exciting. But Rafa, wily vet that he is, managed to win in SS.

    In his presser Stefanos said this experience made him realise how much work he needs to do to reach Rafa’s level. But it made him hungrier, and he is looking forward to Cincy, where his first opponent will be Goffin.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 12, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    I thought the Simona-Sloane match was outstanding. A great final and Simona deserved this title.

    Yeah the women’s field has had trouble with young players improving. Yet don’t forget there are still quality players out there like the Montreal finalists, Kerber and I suppose Woz.

    It’s time for a Maddie Keys to step up.

    One issue I have is the lack of personalities in women’s tennis. Petko is still the most interesting gal and she is ranked in the 90s. Kerber is good too. I blame the social media – girls figure it is enough to look pretty on IG and not develop social skills.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 12, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    Hartt, I like that comment by Tsitsipas, he is saying he will do what it takes to get to the Rafa level, he knows he’s far away but he also knows he can get there. One day he will be beating Rafa in these big events. We know that day is coming soon.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 12, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Simona shows once again she is the best in the world.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 13, 2018 at 12:48 am

    This success by Tsitsipas also validates the work he did at Mouratoglou academy. Mouratoglou is doing an amazing job by helping Serena reach new levels and now he has a 20-year-old future star on his hands. I imagine once Serena hangs it up, Mouratoglou will be on tour with Tsitsipas.

    Rafa out of Cincinnati, btw. Smart move since he has the points he needs to pad his No. 1 ranking and why give someone the mental edge of beating him before the Open?

    He and Djoker are the clear favorites in Flushing. Where Djoker gets seeded will be critical.

  • catherine · August 13, 2018 at 3:23 am

    I thought Simona/Sloane was a great display of baseline tennis and not much else. Simona is currently the best in the world there but we’d all become extremely bored if that was the only style on offer.( Frankly, I saw more variety when Cornet beat Kerber in Montreal.) That final was the kind of passive play which can be nicely labelled ‘women’s tennis’.

    As for young players improving, what’s happening to Ostapenko, Svitolina, Kasatkina ? They should be making finals and they’re not. Could add a couple more to that list.

    Unfortunately you can’t grow a ‘personality’ on demand. It’s a pretty vague and subjective notion. And not truly available to the public, surely. People used to complain that Steffi had no ‘personality’ and that Billie Jean had too much of one. And to me, Angie has a pleasant though rather subdued personality but I suppose after winning Wimbledon all sorts of new qualities can be discovered. Last year nobody could find a good word to say about her.

    Petko is becoming a better writer than player. That’s her future.

    Social media ? It’s one of those peripherals I’ve mentioned before. Useless distraction but mandatory for publicity. A WTA rule. And ‘social skills’ have nothing to do with playing tennis. It’s what you do on the court that counts, not in interviews and all that rubbish.

    My fear is that as long as Simona dominates, beginning players will want to play like her and that would be one way to kill the women’s game. Girls can run forever from side to side but up and back is another matter. Coach that. (I didn’t see many dropshots yesterday, any actually, but maybe I wasn’t paying attention.Please do correct me)

    I wonder what Mouratoglou would have to say about all this. Perhaps Tsitsipas might inspire some ambitious girl at Patrick’s academy.

  • Hartt · August 13, 2018 at 7:53 am

    I did watch the women’s final closely. Both women played well overall and it was close enough, with swings back and forth, to be interesting. But I have to say that I’m not a real fan of baseline tennis, in either the women’s game or the men’s. Like Catherine, I crave more variety in a match. But many people do enjoy that style, and they thought it was a great match.

    Rafa pretty well creamed Stefanos in the first set, and it looked like that would be a boring match. But Stefanos seemed to figure out how to cope with Rafa’s shots and played better in the 2nd set. It will be interesting to see if the youngster can maintain this level of play in the coming weeks, or better yet, improve his game.

  • Hartt · August 13, 2018 at 7:57 am

    There should be lots of interesting tennis in Cincy, but I will also be keeping an eye on the big Challenger in Vancouver, As you’d expect, lots of Canadians are playing there, including Felix, Pospisil, and Polansky. For the women, the Canucks include Bouchard and Rebecca Marino.

  • catherine · August 13, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Hartt- I suppose people do like baseline tennis, of course they do, but myself I just find it impossible to sit through. Something to do with lack of imagination, or enterprise – and if a match goes on long enough the players seem to get into a fugue state and you feel, rules permitting, they’d go on for ever or until one of them collapsed with exhaustion.

    The AO match between Kerber and Halep was far superior in quality – mainly because Angie knew she couldn’t win by just running back and forth and so tried different tactics.

    Simona used to play with more variety – I don’t know if this is Cahill’s influence. He probably figures her current style works although it obviously didn’t at Wimbledon.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2018 at 8:51 am

    Duke, Tsitsipas does not list Mourataglou as his coach on the ATP site, his coach is his dad. I think it’s a Seles Bollettieri situation all over again, they just use the academy to train, not sure of Mouratoglou does any actual coaching for Tsitsipas. Mouratglou is said to be an opportunist and probably will want to be seen in Tsitsipas box now that he’s a winner but this situation bears following. Again, the one and only coach of Tsitsipas is his father Apostolos.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2018 at 8:58 am

    I dont understand why these top players can’t use more variety, slices, drop shots, loopers, baseline rallies over and over are so ripe to be shredded by a variety player.

  • catherine · August 13, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Angie uses the slice dropshot – sometimes overuses it 🙂

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 13, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Right Scoop. Smart business for Mourataglou to latch onto the kid and charge more parents for his academy.

    Someone will ask Tsitsipas soon how much the academy has helped his game.

    Looking forward to tiafoe v shapo

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Just two years ago Tsitsipas was a total unknown, sitting out on a bleacher by himself watching a junior match at US Open on court 15. I knew who he was and we chatted for about 20 minutes but for some reason I did not do a Biofile with him, assuming I would have a few more years and many more opportunities to do it. But that was the perfect setting and he would have given more thoughtful answers than in a quick bang banger with an ATP guy hovering nearby. I was struck by how calm and relaxed he was. A few days later he lost to Felix in the boys final 64 75 on new grandstand.

  • Hartt · August 13, 2018 at 11:32 am

    From what Stefanos has said, he has worked with Mouratoglou. He certainly speaks highly of him.

  • Hartt · August 13, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Scoop, as you know, I follow Felix’s career like a hawk, so a small correction. His match at the USO boys tourney vs Stefanos was the SF. He went on to cream poor Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-0 in the final.

    Felix is playing in a big Challenger in Vancouver this week. I hope he does well and can get some valuable ranking points.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Stefanos is a diplomat, he speaks highly of him but he did not hire him as his coach or even co-coach. This is definitely a situation that bears watching. How will Mouratoglu be able to maximize his credit for Tsitsipas’s success.

  • Joe Blow · August 13, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    It’s rare in tennis that the players remember all the coaches, or financial backers,once they make it..

    In the Bolitieri bio pic, his right hand man was always trying to get something in writing from the families, that if they made it, they might pay something back. Probably why NB takes credit for SW, and VW, he probably never got any other compensation.

    I’m sure there are some that did the right thing, but I would guess that’s rare

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Tsitsipas has traveled with a Mouratoglu fitness coach and he has been very generous in praising how much his fitness has improved because of the academy but as far as tactics and coaching I can’t recall Tsitispas saying anything noteworthy about that.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 13, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    More stupidity from none other than Andy Murray, who lost today to Pouille in three sets.

    He irresponsibly took video of him on the roller coaster with Kyrgios – which is a safety hazard. The amusement part asked him to remove it. Then he posted about how dumb it is and took a shot at our gun laws in a comparison that doesn’t even make any sense.

    He isn’t even an American to understand how this country works. It would be like me complaining that he bows to the queen. Just ridiculous.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 13, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Tiafoe served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd but as broken twice and loses 7-5 to Shapo, who was sloppy with 13 DFs. It’s a tough way to lose.

    Shapo renews a rivalry with Edmund, who he has played five times in two years with a 3-2 mark including a win at the Open.

    The Saudi Arabian Mmoh has split sets with Mayer.

    Mourataglou was thanked by Stefanos in his speech yesterday. Mourataglou has been posting a lot on social media about this run by the Greek and will no doubt demand his share of the credit. It’s an intriguing storyline.

    Pliskova, the top seed at least year’s Open, has dumped her coach. She is a forgotten woman and a non-contender at the moment.

  • Hartt · August 13, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    As the commies said, Shapo stole that match from Tiafoe. I was yelling at the TV screen like crazy, especially when Denis was making all those DFs. But he showed his fighting spirit and then started to hit aces at the very end.

    I hope he can play better against Edmund, he was far from his best today.

  • jg · August 13, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Tiafoe having trouble closing out matches, this week and last, maybe he needs a sports psychiatrist

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Murray turning himself into a Kyrgios Klown? Funny how people who hang around Nick seem to lose a lot of matches. BTW Duke did you see that Sharapova’s new boyfriend the art dealer Alexander Gilkes was funded by the satanist Marina Abramovic? Looks like Sharapova is looking to make a deal with the *****.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Hartt what were you yelling exactly at the TV screen? It worked! What you yelled I’m going to add to my verbal arsenal and yell at myself after I double fault because then I know I will soon serve aces 🙂

  • Hartt · August 13, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Scoop, I did not realise I had so much power! Unfortunately, what I was yelling was nothing special – mostly just “Get your first serve in!” And “Stop with the DFs!”

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 13, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Hartt, you could qualify as a professional coach with those tactical tinkerings, your heckles at your television set would bring Donald Young back to the top 100 and Ivo Karlovic back to the top 50 🙂

  • Hartt · August 13, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    LOL. If I had any power, am afraid I would not use it for Young or Dr. Ivo. I would save it for Milos, Shapo and Felix! 🙂

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 13, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Scoop I didn’t realize that Shazza’s bf was connected to that satanist so it all makes sense now. No wonder her career is headed downhill.

    Yes associate with Kyrgios and you do stupid things for sure. Murray should disassociate from him right away. As for Kyrgios, this match against Kudla is the kind that he will lose.

    Jack Sock can actually move up in the rankings this week, believe it or not. He is up first on stadium court vs. Chung.

  • catherine · August 14, 2018 at 2:29 am

    We discussed that Abramovic stuff before here a few months ago. It’s an old story. She’s just a weird performance artist. No big deal. Gilkes is well connected and I can see Maria sticking to him.

    Cornet ousts Penko 6-0 3rd set. Serena moves smoothly past Gavrilova. Looking good. Konta gone already. Julia G retires v Kiki. Kiki’s first win for a while. Julia had an injury in Montreal – she should rest up.

    Ka Pliskova’s just doing the Czech thing – dumping her coach. She’s probably concentrating more on wedded bliss now anyway. Czech’s should be more concerned that they seem to have no coming younger generation.

    Murray’s behaving oddly. Kim should have a few words.
    He’s a married man with responsibilities. Nick’s a kid with none.

  • catherine · August 14, 2018 at 2:33 am

    Scoop – can we have a new tournament thread please ?

  • catherine · August 14, 2018 at 3:25 am

    I had another look at Serena on highlights and although she’s improved she’s still not moving that well and Gavrilova wasn’t the toughest competition. Kvitova, providing the right Petra shows up, could be a more realistic test. Amazing how many comments a Serena match attracts.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 14, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Catherine, do more research on Abramovic and spirit cooking, it’s far far more sinister than the artsy facade she’s using as cover. Andy and Nick are very close and have been for years, Nick told me Andy took him under his wing early on and they’ve been tight since. Andy has been very good with certain young players like Nick and he used to practice a lot with Kokkinakis, like every day one year at Miami Open but not sure if they are still close. Nick and Andy are very close though. Andy might just be in “I’m going to enjoy my final years on the Tour” mode, he worked so hard all of his life, he’s entitled to coast a bit and enjoy the Tour on his terms.

  • catherine · August 14, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    I looked up Abramovic before when she was being discussed and I don’t have much more to say about her. It’s Maria’s life anyway and she can do what she wants with it. I don’t imagine she’ll be around tennis for that much longer.

    I’m sure Andy and Nick are great buddies. But I don’t know how much enjoyment is ahead for Andy – I suspect his hip is going to go on causing trouble and he won’t be the same player again. He says he would like to coach eventually – doesn’t want to commentate etc.
    I can see him in the role.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 14, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    I’m sure Maria is aligning with this crowd to set up her post tennis career. Abramovic is linked to many big Hollywood celebrities like Jay Z, Ferrell, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, etc and also many of the DC elites. Murray has said he’d be happy to be a top 30 player, he said this months ago. Clearly he’s just thinking to enjoy the Tour life and not put too much pressure on himself. I’d be surprised if he ever wins another title.

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