Tennis Prose




Aug/18

10

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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88 comments

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 10, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Tsitsipas actually sounds like he agreed with Zverev.
    Said Tsitsipas: “The level of tennis today in my opinion was not the highest. It was alright. I would say I played OK. I would say I played more clever this time I kind of fooled him when I was on the court, did some things he didn’t expect me to do.”

    I would say that tactically Tsitsipas is far and away ahead of the youngsters. I detailed the specifics of his game plan vs. Novak that unsettled the SW19 champ.

    I didn’t watch this match as closely to see how it turned around – Zverev was up 6-3, 5-2. Tsitsipas earned a break point at 5-3 and converted and an epic tiebreak ensued that the Russian could have won.

    Instead Tsitsipas showed less nerves – AZ double faulted in the breaker. It looked to me that his tactic was looping balls to the AZ forehand and try to hit a flat BH down the line for winners. Certainly AZ was rattled once his Plan A of blowing the Greek off the court went up in smoke.

    I’ll leave it to you tactics experts to further dissect how this amazing upset took place. Tsitsipas said he beat Ando on cly in Portugal but this match will be different and he will have some different tricks up his sleeve. What he means I do not know since it is all Greek to me!

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 10, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    Wow impressive first set by Cilic.

    One issue I see with Sascha is easily correctable. He was cruising in this match and then mentally let down when he failed to convert his chances. It reminded me of some of the immaturity he showed last year at the Open.

    It may be time to bring someone else in to help him tactically since he can’t turn to mum and dad on the court. The Zverevs have done a nice job but can he win Slams under their tutelage? I know they brought in Ferrero and that didn’t work. They need someone else in their camp to get his head on straight.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 10, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    Tsitsipas coming back and beating Zverev was very similar to the Sugar Ray Leonard KO 14 Thomas Hearns fight, where Hearns was in control but then Leonard battled back and zapped him at the end. Devastating loss for Zverev who was sure he was the heir apparent but now it looks like Tsitsipas could be the heir apparent.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 10, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    If this loss proved anything to Zverev, it’s that he needs Lendl around full time or at least part full time.

  • catherine · August 11, 2018 at 2:34 am

    I’ll post tournament stuff here because previous thread is getting long.

    Looks like Halep/Stephens in Montreal. And I notice, contrary to the impression she recently gave, that Serena has entered Cincinnati – which should liven things up a little 🙂

    Scoop – I don’t see why there shouldn’t be heirs apparent. Let them fight it out.

  • catherine · August 11, 2018 at 2:53 am

    Ha ha – ‘trouble at mill’. Simona has ripped into the WTA for unfair scheduling of her matches and I think she has a point. She certainly has been playing at some weird times. WTA deny this of course. Does the WTA consider Romania’s finest less of an attraction than other players ? She says it’s happened before.

    I love to see players criticize the WTA – a rare event. They’re usually grovelling.

    I bet the WTA want Stephens to win.

  • catherine · August 11, 2018 at 6:18 am

    Books – ‘Chasing Points, A season on the pro circuit’, by Gregory Howe, published in May, I’ve just seen reviewed.

    I’m sure it’s very good but there’s something awfully familiar about the title and the theme so I probably won’t read it.

    Anyone else seen/read it ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Halep would not make these accusations if they were not true. A quiet Romanian is not the most sellable star for the WTA which wants to sell and promote someone different. I think we all know who that is, as Catherine suggests. But this kind of disrespect will give Halep extra fuel. It’s good she is letting this informational cat out of the bag and revealing what she perceives as injustice.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 11, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Tennis media predictably and stupidly ripping Sascha for the comments reported above.

    This is why I hate the left – they interpret it as bad sportsmanship when he is just telling the truth. As I pointed out Tsitsipas said the same thing. I just watched the match and it was like a junior tennis match in many ways so the assessment is correct.

    I hope the readers of this site do not pay attention to the ridiculous tennis media criticizing Sascha for telling the truth. Many of these people don’t understand sports and the battle and what it means to compete. If you want athletes to speak truthfully, then you have no problem with what he said.

  • Jg · August 11, 2018 at 11:55 am

    I just ordered the book, it’s not ready to ship. Check out the first round matches in Cincinnati, Tsitsipas Goffin, Isner Querrey, Tiafoe Shapavolov, Johnson Djokovic, what a letdown going into the US Open losing in the first round, especially the Isner Querrey match. Tsitsipas is in enough of a run, Goffin needs it more. If Shapavolov loses , he’s heading into the open underperforming.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Tiafoe beat Shap in their last meeting in Delray so Shap will be eager for revenge. isner Querrey could end up being a double subconscious tank 🙂 Might pick Tsitsipas to win the US Open though Rafa is looking lethal. Goffin sure has quieted down this year since McEnroe said he wasn’t interested to coach him because he lacks fire and emotional adrenaline. I think Kyrgios has a better shot at reviving the Bozo the clown TV role than winning a major right now.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Which book jg?

  • Hartt · August 11, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    To be fair to the tournament organizers, two of the women playing yesterday were also playing doubles, so they had to have time slots that took that into account. I don’t know what the situation was at other tourneys, because Simona thinks this is a recurring problem.

  • catherine · August 11, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Scoop – the book I mentioned above.

  • catherine · August 11, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Hartt – yes, I realise the rain, doubles etc made life difficult in Montreal but I got the feeling Simona’s been bottling this up for a while.

    Maybe she knows what I suspect is the truth – the WTA would much rather have someone else as the face of women’s tennis – Sloane, Wozniaki,anyone ‘glamourous’ (not Angie though) but they’ve got Simona and that’s life I’m afraid.

    She’s sensitive about this and will find slights where maybe none are intended. Myself, I hope she keeps on winning and resists any attempt on the part of the WTA to change her.

  • Tom Sawyer · August 11, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Not even a Sasha fan, but I have zero probs with what he said. It was an ugly match and a few points played better would’ve been straight sets win for him. His next milestone is learning how to win even when not playing that well – Fed/Nadal/Murray/Djoker all phenomenal at that.

    Tsitsi won an ugly match using focus and guile which is just as impressive as winning playing in great form…imho.

    Wow, Cincy first round…

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 11, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    I could be wrong but I expect Ando to win big over Tsitsipas.
    We shall see. Big guys like Isner and Ando give the Greek problems.

    I actually think Tsitsipas is much further away from winning a major than Sascha and Thiem, etc. He needs to develop his weapons more and learn to be more than a counterpuncher. I admire his tactical guile but he doesn’t have the game yet to win majors with opponents having a day to prepare for him. I do think he has room to improve and the fact that he has such a great tennis brain is a major asset.

    Goffin needs to beat him badly.

    Yeah Isner and Querrey could see both want to tank that match. They haven’t met in some time. Isner already said he is skipping Winston-Salem.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 11, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Sandgren goes down in SS to Klahn. He needs some matches badly in Winston-Salem as he slides into oblivion.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Catherine this will fuel Halep but if it’s true and they turn up the heat on her to push her down, she is human and could wilt. Halep is a good ticket seller and Romanians come out in droves to support her and they support her with animation and devotion. Halep may not be as glamorous as some of the other top ten players but that should not matter. Equality is what they preach now right? Halep deserves equality too.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Ugly matches is a BS term, hard fought struggles produce tennis that is not pretty. I like how Tsitsipas said he felt he played okay, as if he beat Zverev playing with his B or C game. He also said he felt he fooled Zverev with some of his tactics. This is a clever teenager! 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Duke, Zverev gave Tsip problems last week but the kid solved those problems. He could solve Anderson today too.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Sandgren and Klahn have a rivalry from Challengers and qualies and Klahn has the h2h edge and it played out again today. Sandgren hasn’t had a good win in months. Maybe he will get a good draw at US Open unlike last year when he got Cilic.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Tsitsipas has many qualities that attract people to watch – you can see the traces of Federer, Kuerten in his game, also the appearance calls to mind Borg. Also, beating Zverev was a big step for another reason – he had that controversy with Medvedev in Miami and Zverev trounced Medvedev this week in Toronto. So it’s like a double win, it will give the confidence to beat Medvedev next time.

  • catherine · August 11, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Scoop – I think Simona will shrug this off. As you say, she has the support of her compatriots and that’s probably what matters most to her.

  • Joe Blow · August 11, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    This Next Gen tournament is a joke. Right now 6,7 and 8. Are Rudd, Munar, and Herckaz. Should they be rewarded just for this age? The older guys in the ATP, guys that are ranked 10 through 18 ought to be pissed that their Union came up with this tourn.
    Zverev will be at the Masters 8 so probably won’t play..Hype joke idea

  • Jg · August 11, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    Tsitsipas may qualify for the London masters too, in that case what’s the point, they may not need it after this year. I also see Chung Sock first round Cincinnati, Chung is too solid for Sock

  • Tom Sawyer · August 11, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    BS? Sometimes you play beautiful tennis, sometimes you play ugly tennis. Brad Gilbert even wrote a book on Winning Ugly.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Joe, I like the NEXT GEN Tournament a lot, it’s a good innovation, a chance for young struggling players to make money after shelling out a fortune for their junior career travel and coaching. Tsitsipas father told me that two years ago when it was first being discussed, these top juniors play a fortune in travel and coaching and it’s a good chance for them to earn money and gain prestige amongst each other. I’d also like to see an over 33 #OLDGEN event.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Sock could really save his confidence with a win over Chung but I see another SS loss for Sock. Chung beat him previously I believe.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Guga told me he had to play ugly/bad tennis to beat Safin for the first time. Guga realized certain shots worked vs Safin and may have been the one to solve the puzzle which Santoro learned from. I will check to see which first beat Safin. Tsitsipas plays so so smart and he has variety. What a class player already.

  • Hartt · August 11, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    No comments on Stefanos’ win over Kevin Anderson? An amazing run to get to the final, beating 4 top 10 players! So he will spend his 20th birthday playing for a Masters 1000 title. Things have changed for him so quickly – this time last year he was playing a Challenger in Slovenia.

    The fans in Toronto loved the youngster. Of course so many Greek fans in the crowd helped with that. But Stefanos is an entertaining player to watch. What stood out in this match was how well he managed clutch situations. If he can continue to do that he will be very dangerous indeed.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Another magical win by Tsitsipas, so smart, so complete and also so poised, his facial expression is so cool and composed and calm while Anderson looked so stressed and intense. Kid is a natural and he’s a future legend. He just took out three of the toughest, hottest players on the tour this week. And check this out from my friend Saqib Ali: 20 year old Marat Safin won Toronto in 2000 for his first Masters 1000 and Novak Djokovic was 20 years old when he ran through the field in Montreal in 2007 for his second Masters 1000. Stefanos Tsitsipas will contest his first Masters 1000 final on his 20th birthday tomorrow.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 11, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    Really a magical week for Tsitsy. Tomorrow as his birthday just adds to the legend. Amazing story. Once again, changing his tactics by moving back on the Anderson serve. He really is a tennis savant and will be a great coach in 20 years. The great Fed mentioned him about two years ago so Fed deserves a lot of credit for spotting his enius.

    I still think he is not ready for the best-of-5 tests quite yet but we shall see…

  • Thomas Tung · August 12, 2018 at 12:27 am

    As others have mentioned, Tsitsipas has that tactical element to this game that most of the NextGen (Chung excepted, of course, since tactics is Chung’s prime weapon) doesn’t really have, yet.

    I still think that Shapovalov has a much higher ceiling than Stefanos, but Denis needs to learn how to play better rally shots. As it is, he goes for the throat far too often (incidentially, a playstyle that would’ve worked much better on the wildly varied surfaces during the mid/late 1990s). The more homogenous surface playing speeds in today’s game don’t allow for explosive tennis that much, anymore. Focused, aggressive, yet steady baseline play rules the game. The acronym “Fedalovic” covers that quite well. (Possibly Fedalovicrray)?
    Chung already has this, and Tsitsipas has been quick to grasp this concept, too. Let’s see how the rest of the NextGen adapt to this (quite honestly, I don’t see Coric as a multi-Slam winner, and quite possibly not even a solo Slam winner, in today’s game. You have to be able to impose with your groundstrokes, not just feed off opponents’ power).

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 12, 2018 at 12:27 am

    Q. What have you learned about yourself this week?
    STEFANOS TSITSIPAS: That I’m capable of doing anything on the court, beating any opponent.

    Q. Taking down the opponents that you have in this tournament, was there any point in any of those matches where you realized that, Hey, I can compete with the best in the world? And when did you kind of realize that maybe you can go all the way to the final here?
    STEFANOS TSITSIPAS: I can probably say my match with Dominic Thiem helped me a lot to understand that. You know, I had a negative record against him before playing him this week. I think it’s still negative but, you know, I beat him on clay. I managed to beat him on hard again. I never beat him before on hard. He beat me twice in Doha and Indian Wells. So it was pretty tough for me to accept this.

    So I really went for it this time. And it made me realize that I feel — I can play good on all the surfaces and that I am able — if I’m on my best, I can beat any player.

    Because, I mean, simply because I feel that all of my shots are big weapons. And it’s tough to find, I would say, I can say, players with so much confidence in their shots. And I feel like I’m playing pretty good and I feel better than ever.

  • Hartt · August 12, 2018 at 1:17 am

    Khachanov had a respectable showing against Rafa, taking the first set to a TB, but it wasn’t a big surprise that Rafa won in SS. We will see a vet against a youngster in the final as Rafa goes for his 80th title. I expect Rafa will get it, and Stefanos’ birthday present will simply be to play the final. But I hope he can make it an entertaining match.

  • catherine · August 12, 2018 at 3:46 am

    Seems Toronto and Montreal have got the finals they wanted.

    Tsitsipas certainly has a lot of self-confidence. Haven’t heard such chippy comments for a long time. It’s throwing a challenge out to everyone.

    Stephens ran through Svitolina but I hope Simona can make it a match. I think she’ll be wanting to prove a point.

    The women’s game is going through a bad patch – younger players are simply not coming through with the results, older ones are fading and I can’t see anyone coming up with a game which really features variety of shotmaking, enterprise or ambition. Nothing new, nothing to compare with the men – where are the equivalents of Zverev, Tsitsipas etc ? Where’s the consistency ?

    Wimbledon was a disaster. I don’t mean Kerber didn’t deserve to win, she did, in every sense, but the combined ages of the finalists was 66 for heaven’s sake. No one to make you stop and stare in that draw.

    Are women being featherbedded ? Have they no ambition ? Do we blame the coaches, greedy agents, fawning media ? Influence of Serena Williams ? Playing surfaces ? Who or what? As I have said before somewhere – too many distractions around women’s tennis. Less rubbish about ‘tennis moms’ please, less, if any, fashion stuff and other trivia, and more attention to the tennis, which is a game involving more than 3 types of shot. I believe.

    I’ve been watching women (and men) play since the 70s, from the time when very few players had full time coaches and there were no travelling ‘teams’.

    Now there are often more people in players’ boxes than there are in the stands and many women are rich beyond the dreams of avarice but I’d say, relatively, the overall standard is no better, maybe worse in a way since the disappearance of serve/volley.

    Sponsors may soon start taking a hike from the women’s game and who can blame them, honestly ?

  • Hartt · August 12, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Catherine, at least for the men the final we wanted would have involved a Canadian, but Tsitsipas vs Rafa will be a fine substitute. Rafa is very popular in Toronto and there is a big Greek community here. Stefanos has often referred to the fan support he is receiving.

    For the women, Simona and Sloane are big names, so I suppose that is a popular final. I just hope it is a good match. I was so excited to finally get to see women’s tennis on TV and then the matches I did watch weren’t exactly compelling. As you said, there is not a lot of variety in the way many women play, and I get bored with never-ending baseline rallies pretty quickly.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 12, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Catherine you just blitzkrieged the womens game as vehemently as Dan ever did! Hopefully Su Wei Hsieh will save the WTA in Cincy!

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 12, 2018 at 9:36 am

    This prince is about to become the new king. Soon. Very soon.

    The combination of power, consistency, maturity, poise, elegance, mental toughness are all there in abundance. Hail the new king!

  • catherine · August 12, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Hartt – I think Rafa will win since he is so much more experienced, but that match should be a good measure of just how good Tsitsipas is at present – and I’m sure Felix and Denis will be representing Canada in the future, although Milos may have peaked.

    As for the women – I couldn’t agree more. I watched the highlights of Stephens v Svit and was just glad I didn’t have to see the whole match. So many young women seem promising and then, quite early, reach a point where they stay still or actually start going backwards. Sometimes I watch past matches on Youtube (Novotna v Pierce in MSG is a good one) and I just wonder – where did it all go, that aggression and adventurousness ? A mystery.

    BTW – did you see my mention above of the new book out ? Simon Briggs reviewed it in the DT but it was Premium so I had a look at the Amazon summary. You might enjoy it, I don’t know.

  • Hartt · August 12, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Catherine, I made the mistake of using one of my precious Premium “looks” to read the review. If my library gets it, will be interested in reading it. But after books totally took over my last apt., I have a strict rule – no buying books!

  • catherine · August 12, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Scoop – Hsieh failed to qualify I’m sorry to say.

    I’m allowed to blitzkrieg the game because a)I’m not a man and b)I try to be objective and think about reasons although, as I’ve said, I haven’t come up with any yet. I also want the game to be better. Some men would rather it just disappeared.

  • Hartt · August 12, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Regarding the Canadian men, I am very excited about Felix and Denis. But I haven’t given up on Milos yet. When he is not injured and has managed to get some match play, he actually performs well. And he has lost so much time with injuries that he should be anxious to play, not tired of the sport. So if he can just avoid injuries for a while, I think he could still do well. But that is such a big “if.”

  • catherine · August 12, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Hartt – try my books rule ‘one in, one out’. Works marvels !

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 12, 2018 at 10:10 am

    There are a lot of dreary womens matches that look like the same video game but there are a few players who stand out and carry the WTA – Hsieh, Cibulkova, Radwanska, Halep, Shuai, Jabeur, Niculescu, Claire Liu, Bellis, etc. In the last it’s been Seles, Hingis, Schiavone, Henin, Jankovic, Graf, etc.

  • catherine · August 12, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Scoop – someone on Youtube does actually make a game out of some of the women’s matches and do you know, I can’t always tell the difference ? Except the bustlines are bigger 🙂

    As for the women you mention, can’t say they’re all standouts for me, but I suppose I’m biased. I just prefer attacking play and variety.

    (Hsieh is fine but so many tournaments she doesn’t qualify.)

    I’d like Simona to win Montreal although her game is pretty much like the rest, just better. I wish she’d meet someone who forces her out of her comfort zone. I don’t think Sloane will.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 12, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Catherine, Hsieh is at 42 in the world right now so she had to qualify and lost to Tatjana Maria, she hasn’t played since Wimbledon. She is just not strong enough physically to pull off her shocking wins like the Halep upset at Wimbledon, on a consistent basis. She’s more like a roving artist, you never know when she will pull off her next magic act. My picks are Halep and Tsitsipas today. I see no reason why the kid can’t do it again. A superstar has been born this week. He has hit with Rafa and knows what he’s up against. I say he figures it out this time. And then he enters the US Open as one of the favorites.

  • catherine · August 12, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    I wish there were a women’s equivalent of Tsitsipas, or a new Steffi who won the Grand Slam at 19. Someone who bursts on the world with a different game and forces a change. Maybe like Serena and Venus.

    I wish I wish….

  • Hartt · August 12, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Scoop, I am very excited about Stefanos, but beating Rafa, especially in a final, is a huge task. Let’s just say I am not planning on a Greek treat at the moment.

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