Tennis Prose



Tsitsipas better than Federer at 21?

At age 21 after the 2002 ATP World Tour Finals, Roger Federer was ranked six in the world.

In 2003 Federer would win his first major at Wimbledon, just weeks shy of his 22nd birthday.

Stefanos Tsitsipas was also born in August (1998) and yesterday won the Nitto ATP Tour Finals at 21, he is currently ranked six in the world but was ranked as high as 5 in August.

The Greek’s best major result to date is the semi in Australia this year. He also made fourth round at Wimbledon, Roland Garros and 2r at US Open.

At 21, Federer lost first round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and made 4R at the other two. Federer made two major quarterfinals the year before in 2001 and actually regressed in his major results from age 2001 to 2002 but he of course won Wimbledon in 2003.

So a case can be made that Stefanos Tsitsipas is actually the better player at age 21 than Roger Federer. Slightly more accomplished, slightly more consistent in his Grand Slam results.

Federer won his first World Tour Finals in 2003 and finished that year ranked no. 2 behind Andy Roddick. Federer won his first Masters Series title in Hamburg in 2002.

So the comparisons of Federer and Tsitsipas at the same age is very, very close. Up to age 21, Tsitsipas may be ahead by a nose. But obviously Tsitsipas has a lot of work ahead of him in the following years if he wants to continue to progress at a Roger Federer rate.

Tsitsipas will need to win his first major in 2020 and then add two or three majors per year for the following five years to just keep pace with King Roger.

Can he do it? Can Tsitsipas even surpass the Federer Grand Slam success explosion after age 21 to 26 (Federer won one major in 2010, none in 2011, one in 2012 and none from 2013-2106).



  • Hartt · November 21, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Canada won the QF over Australia, with Vasek and Shapo winning the doubles 6-4, 6-4. Vasek served 3 aces in the last game!

    The team will meet the winner of Serbia/Russia in the SF.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 21, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    No surprise Canada prevailing, they have a formidable roster. Australia with Kyrgios could implode at any time, Kyrgios as we know is as unpredictable as Marcelo Rios during a full moon. My pick was Canada to win it all, looking good so far.

  • Hartt · November 21, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Scoop, impressive that you picked Canada to win DC. I am not so sure, either Serbia or Russia will be tough in the SF. Most of the predictions I saw had Australia winning today, but I thought Canada had an excellent chance to win this tie.

    The big surprise has been Pospisil. He has been playing great tennis and, with just 2 guys playing, has certainly been the MVP. I was surprised that Dancevic used Shapo for the doubles, right after he lost to De Minaur. He had to be exhausted, both mentally and physically. But it proved to be the right decision. Vasek and Denis were noticeably better as a team than they were on Monday.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 21, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    Hartt, Davis Cup is wide open but as you know I am a big admirer for what Tennis Canada and the future head of USTA Louis Borfiga has been doing north of the border an I love the chemistry of the team with Felix and Shap and now Pospisil back on track and winning Challengers. Some other strong teams but I like Canada’s chances very much, with or without Raonic.

  • Jeff · November 21, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Not surprised Kyrgios is “injured.” He generally has come up small every time it counts, though he has people fooled into believing the opposite.

    I congratulate Canada, though Serbia is a tall task.

  • catherine · November 22, 2019 at 1:00 am

    Andrew – you’re right. Kerber’s slide into obscurity will be a sideshow and she’ll announce her retirement at the Berlin tournament.

    A lot of ‘what ifs’ but that’s life. She’ll coach at her tennis centre in Poland and wait for H of F. But she’ll leave no legacy and no girls will try to play like her.

    Jeff – I have to laugh. Kyrgios predicted Australia would win and no doubt saw himself in a leading role. He’s the most injured player in current ATP. I’m surprised he can stand up.

  • catherine · November 22, 2019 at 1:36 am

    More on Berlin – the grass tournament, to be held at the Rot-Weiss Club in the Steffi Graf stadium, will be supported by the AEC as part of preparation for W’don. Out with spotless looking spades on the turf at the press conference were various suits, tournament director Barbara Rittner and featured player Julia G. No sign of Kerber who didn’t get around to stopping off in Berlin, although she has committed to play.

    (Birmingham loses out – being downgraded)

  • catherine · November 22, 2019 at 5:19 am

    Kyrgios wants more team events in tennis and he’d prefer only the GSs left as regular tournaments. Otherwise he thinks the sport will die out.

    He drones on about the Laver Cup, a glorified exhibition, but doesn’t seem to understand that the public’s appetite for team events can be quickly sated and where would we be then ? No tournaments in which players can be developed. It’s piffle. Nick thinks tennis is basketball.

  • Hartt · November 22, 2019 at 7:26 am

    Kyrgios just thinks about what he likes. Although it is true that some of the 250 tourneys struggle, the Masters are doing just fine.

    Tom Tebbutt asked an Aussie if Nick’s injury was above or below the neck and the guy just shrugged.

    You have to wonder if Kyrgios makes these controversial statements to get attention, because he can’t get it through actually competing.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2019 at 8:35 am

    For Nick to say he prefers team events shows he does not enjoy the pressure of being on his own one on one.

  • Andrew Miller · November 22, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Catherine, Scoop said at Bolletieri they have a lot of tapes videos etc of past players, like a database of shots. Kvitova, Kerber have both been the sport’s best female lefties since Seles, Navratilova, so they will always be points of reference, especially given their games are possible for many players.

    I don’t know Bolletieri reason for this, maybe Scoop you know as you mentioned that Bolletieri team shows Nishioka tapes of Rios, as otherwise Nishioka tendency wouldn’t be to look up Rios? Another good lefty would be Jarkko Niemenen.

    I’m ALWAYS waiting for the female Rioa. I think her name is Muchova :). It would be nice to see a girl play like Shapovalov too.

    The big thing is when a girl goes you know what I don’t want to play like (so and so), I want to play like Nadal. And then they do it. Refreshing. You should be motivated by players no matter what tour.

    As Shapovalov refines his backhand and makes it more dependable (it’s looking good and he can smoke it or play it safe) Shapovalov may want to find some examples too. Youzhny is a good person to do this. He has to be able to hit a one handed lefty shot, so that’s Andres Gomez? Guy Forget? Leconte? I’d also look at Navratilova as her game was so aggressive, and her backhand was a set up for her smothering of the net.

    If I were Shapovalov I’d also make sure that overhead is in working order. Nadal overhead may be most dependable in history, though the Sampras overhead was right up there.

  • Andrew Miller · November 22, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Scoop, probably the greatest insight to Kyrgios is what you said. He doesn’t like being alone. He adores crowd love, women’s attention, the appreciation of teammates. That’s his favorite. He doesn’t like all the rest of the stuff.

    Maybe he should Bryan Brothers it. Kyrgios would be a huge doubles draw and he would have something to look forward to every tournament while having less pressure to blow up.

    Do we all want to see the guy healthier? If he sticks to doubles he no longer has a need to taunt. He can be a more compassionate guy, we all know so much of Kyrgios is puffery.

    Kyrgios. The third Bryan Brother. Heir to Leander Paes. It would be great for him and the sport.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Federer just missed two overheads in that first game vs Tsitsipas. Fed overhead needs work. Rios … there can never be another Rios. He was one of a kind, from another world talent. With a hard drive and personality from Mars. Bollettieri suggested to Nishioka to study Rios videos and the lad did and found great inspiration and enjoyment from watching Rios perform his magic. Bollettieri with the sage advice for the young Nishioka who is becoming a star player and I predict will be a top 20 star with a cult following.

  • Hartt · November 22, 2019 at 10:40 am

    Russia won against Serbia. Khachanov and Rublev played the doubles vs Djokovic and Troicki. I could only see the scores, but the third set TB was very stressful and exciting. Russia won it 10-8. It sounds like Troicki was the weak link in the TB, and Rublev made some big shots.

    I am a big Karen fan, and not a Troicki fan, so I was pleased with the result. The SF with Canada should be epic! Both teams have totally relied on just 2 players. Canada has a slight advantage because they have today off.

  • Hartt · November 22, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Andrew, Shapo doesn’t have to look far for a model overhead. Milos has a great overhead, which he can hit from anywhere on the court. The few times he has missed it I gasped because it was such a shock.

  • catherine · November 22, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Andrew – I don’t know, I don’t know how many young players will say ‘I want to play like Angie’ – her game is pretty unorthodox from some perspectives and didn’t (doesn’t) hold up too well under pressure. Angie was just herself and somehow that took her to 3 GSs and hardly anything else. And when I said ‘legacy’ I meant that it’s complicated – half German, half Slav, blonde without being a bombshell, liking publicity and then not seeming to and living in Poland not Germany, and a revolving door of coaches – as I said before: unfathomable. But a great fighter for 13 years before she won a title, nearly giving up. She deserves H of F for that alone. She should have played more doubles.

    Kvitova – is her forehand ‘possible’ for many players ?

    Muchova – I’m not sure about her, although I like her game. 2020 could be an important year.

    Yastremska and Bajin are already IG stars. I foresee an underwhelming future for Dyana. And another departure for Sascha.

  • Harold · November 22, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Nishioka and Rios are 5”7 lefties. No coach is going to show Veseley tapes of Rios… jeez.. maybe they should make a special wing in Newport for Rios, oh right, he’s not even in the HOF.. special wing for million dollar talents, Five cent brain and character

  • Andrew Miller · November 22, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Harold, who would you recommend for a young lefty with talent like Shapovalov or the French kids Moutet and Umbert (both of those guys were next gen finals and hit a nice ball – France…the country of female champions and “nice” ATP players 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Harold, Federer is six foot 2 righty and he studied Rios. So did Dolgopolov. So did Six foot 8 American teenager Preston Brown, also a righty. All world no. 1s belong in the hall of fame IMO.

  • Andrew Miller · November 22, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    Moutet, Umbert if they want to make a dent in the game have to learn from other players. It’s a moot point because they’ll do whatever they think works for them, but if you could tell them hey, young lefties, here are some players you should watch, who would you suggest?

    For Shapovalov, given that lefties are UNSTABLE, I’d try to develop a backhand that holds up under fire. I think Muster and Leconte had good backhands that were versatile and worked under stress. Navratilova also. Does Shapovalov care? Doubt it.

    But he has coaches and they do think about this stuff. Hopefully they are thinking about what Shapo might try when others go after his backhand.

  • Harold · November 22, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Shapo should seek out Johnny Mac.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Youzhny is fine for Shap, he’s more in touch with the modern game and players. McEnroe has had a few cracks at coaching – Bruguera, Raonic, Rubin, Philippoussis – but didn’t make any notable impact. McEnroe has said he’d be interested in coaching Shap, so maybe he sees things he can enhance. Remember McEnroe said he wouldn’t want to coach Thiem because he felt he hit his ceiling, right now that looks like a bad call.

  • Harold · November 22, 2019 at 3:36 pm

  • Hartt · November 22, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Dinara Safina has a fascinating piece on “Behind the Racquet.” She talks about the difficult adjustment to life after tennis, when you are no longer the centre of attention.

    Given our discussions about current WTA players compared to players of the past, I thought this was especially interesting:

    “I see many girls today content with what they are achieving, while when I played each person wanted to be better than the one ahead of them, more than anything. It is tough to judge when you aren’t playing but this is what I see. Henin, Clijsters, Davenport, Capriati, Pierce, Mauresmo and the other Russians were all pushing the limits, always eager to be better. I feel there was a different sense of rivalry in those years.”

  • Hartt · November 22, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    More from Dinara:

    “I turned pro when I was 15 and I quit when I was 25. It was 10 years of quite an experience that came to a tough end when I fractured my lower back. Even with all the hard work and lots of pressure day to day, I really enjoyed my time and I was happiest when I could wake up and just get on court. It is funny, once I quit I was really missing the adrenaline and energy that you experience from tennis. It has been very difficult to find anything that can take its place, something that truly motivates me.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Really surprised Safina is not in demand as a coach, she clearly wants to do it. Her view that most players lack ambition and drive and are content rings true. I guess that happens when the money is so big, players get rich and just go through the motions.

  • Jon King · November 23, 2019 at 12:54 am

    I think we are trying to make these players not human. Lack drive and ambition? People need to see how these players train starting as kids. 7-8-9-10-11-12 years old playing 3 hours in the morning, school, 3 hours in the afternoon, home work. You see the kids at these tournaments take off their shoes and their feet are a bloody mess. Little social life, coaches on them like they are pro football players.

    So yeah, when they make enough money to chill many of them do just that, chill…rebel…want an actual life….you know, like pretty much any human would do.

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 1:53 am

    A lot of former players say these things – that it was more competitive in their day. I don’t believe them. You don’t become a top ranked player today if you lack ‘ambition and drive’. And if you do start going through the motions you’ll be sliding down the rankings pretty fast. Lack of competitiveness hasn’t kept Serena around at 38.

    There are more tournaments now and more players which maybe blurs the picture a little but I’d still maintain that no player who wants to be No 1 is going to be resting on their laurels. And I suppose if you want an ‘actual life’ you don’t choose to be a pro tennis player, or a Principal ballet dancer come to that.

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 3:51 am

    Federer and Zverev cancel their date in Bogota because of general uproar and a curfew and fly on to Mexico City where…..

    Perhaps Roger and Sascha wish now they’d opted for Madrid.

  • Hartt · November 23, 2019 at 8:42 am

    In the DC SF Rublev played great tennis to beat Pospisil in the first match, and somehow Shapo pulled out the win vs Karen, so it will come down to the doubles.

  • Andrew Miller · November 23, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Agree with Jon. Tour is hard. It’s hard to get from #1000 to #500, and it’s hard to get from there to anywhere north. That’s assuming of course that somehow someone’s footing the bills and a player isn’t living off saltines. Then when you get there you probably don’t want to change, because why change? You’ve done so well getting from A to B. Then there are all the voices around you that “know better” (some do, some don’t). Then fact those voices want something from you (usually money – whatever your entourage you’re probably their employer, even the love interest hanging around is probably making you foot their bill).

    We forget…these players are on their own in a wolf pack!

    A player generally should try to listen for feedback from people without a stake. Kenin listening to an announcer was a mature move – the announcer didn’t want anything from her, and she decides it may make a difference to work on her ball toss (?). And it pays off. Her movement was criticized and she works on it, and pays off.

    That’s what we call good stuff. I know watching many players don’t make these adjustments. Once it’s match time it’s too late – you arrive to the party with whatever bag of tricks you have. All the rest has to be done in practice or dubs or lower pressure places.

    As to Safina: it would have been great if she had been healthier. Bad back is impossible, can’t play on that. I’m sure given her knowledge at top of game she would make for a good tennis analyst. Safina was skilled and worked hard.

  • Andrew Miller · November 23, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Safina is probably discriminated against. She’d also have to let players know she wants to coach and players would have to think about who Safina is. Otherwise tons of coaches approach players and offer their services etc.

    Safina could write a column or make it better known. Or volunteer in Russia at Spartak, which might be the most successful tennis academy in history (one of them, at least). The Czech academies have been awesome lately as well. Always impressed that Russia for decades now has produced quality players men and women – Russia invaded the sport in the 1990s on men’s side and the early 2000s on women’s side, and now they are back, gripping and ripping on both tours. Ukrainian women coming along. Somehow Belarusian. Somehow.

    Most surprising tennis developments of late, Italian men, Czech women. That Serbia has more than Djokovic is interesting. All this as Spain admits “there is no new Spanish Armada”.

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 9:59 am

    Andrew – I’m not sure what you mean. It seemed to me Dinara was saying that some of the top players aren’t as competitive as they used to be and don’t try as hard as they did in her day. I’m saying that’s a glow in her rear view mirror and it’s probably not true.

    Top players sacrifice a lot to get there and occasionally find they don’t have the stamina or committment to stay around very long (Sloane ?) and then they’ll slide down out of sight. That’s natural.

    As for the current top 10 or so, I doubt any of them are short of drive or ambition, any more than they were in Safina’s day.

    Didn’t take Andreescu long to get from wherever she was to No 5 and she didn’t do it by sitting around being content – she had the talent drive and ambition and if you don’t have that you’ll stay in the corps de ballet. Everything else is irrelevant.

    As Safina sys ‘It’s tough to judge when you aren’t playing.’

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 10:05 am

    And Andrew, nothing about Czech tennis is surprising. They’ve been on the tennis map since Jaroslav Drobny played for Bohemia-Moravia. A long tradition. Changes in name but not in culture.

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 10:29 am

    I knew it, I knew it- Muguruza re-unites with Conchita Martinez for next year. Conchita is probably the only person who understands Garbine and won’t put up with any of her ****.

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Congrats to Canada BTW – Hartt will be thrilled.

    BTW – I looked on Muguruza’s Twitter and I’ve never seen such an avalanche of overwhelming praise on a coaching appointment ever. Just hope it all works out and Garbine can get back to the top 10.

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 10:47 am

    Oops ! I spoke too soon – Canada/Russia are in the decider of the doubles. Cross fingers.

  • Jon King · November 23, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Kenin definitely listened. I remember watching her literally fall backwards and land several feet behind the baseline on her serve a year ago or so and thinking, thats not going to work. That same match, the announcer (maybe Evert?), said the same thing. By the next season they had fixed it and her serve is now pretty dang good.

  • Harold · November 23, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Safina took a gig as a “celebrity tennis coach” at a club two minutes away from my apt in Brooklyn( Major Russian neighborhood). Saw her walking on the boardwalk one day. Read she has a place in Columbus Circle in Manhattan( pricey hood).

    Guess she didn’t find a top level kid at that gig that she’d want to take little Gail Brodsky’s around, or their dads think they can coach

  • Hartt · November 23, 2019 at 11:38 am

    I am so excited! Canada in the Davis Cup final!!

  • Harold · November 23, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Match Point. Was the club. view from my terrace

  • Jon King · November 23, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Another reason older players may say they think today’s players are not as competitive as in the past is the junior arms race. It starts earlier and is much more intense with each passing year.

    Kids are traveling all over the place at younger ages. More practice, more travel, more injuries at younger ages. Zoo Tennis week after week has blurbs about this or that 13-14-15 year old who has won this event in some far off land. These kids have been little travelers with pro like schedules since ages 10-11.

    Its no wonder that once the ones that make it get some money or even instagram attention they don’t work as hard. Many are pretty burned out by the later teens.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 23, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    These are good points Jon, getting to the top 50 or 25 or 10 is the top of the mountain, it’s like winning the lottery. Many players become content – Gasquet, Kohlschreiber, Karlovic, Pavlyuchenkova, Giorgi, etc etc, and are just happy to stay in the mix. No crime in that. These players sacrificed everything to get there. But like Wilander, said if tennis matches are not life and death for a player, they will go down.

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    I still don’t believe that top ranked players aren’t as competitive as they’ve always been. Possibly they have to be more so because there are more players and more tournaments. Some have always been satisfied to stay mid-level and that’s not going to change. If others get burned out early on then we don’t hear about them.

    I always take Safina’s kind of comment with a large pinch of salt. Distance, as we know, lends enchantment to the view.

  • catherine · November 23, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Nadal demonstrates how to shorten points with exceptional serve/volleying v Dan Evans. I can think of several players who might emulate this tactic and find ways to extend their careers as well as opening up exciting new strategic opportunities 🙂

  • Hartt · November 23, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    Simona Halep is engaged. Apparently there was an engagement party in Paris, and the wedding is slated for after next year’s USO.

  • Hartt · November 23, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Correction, Simona and her BF (who is twice divorced) vacationed in Paris, and had an engagement party today, but not necessarily in Paris.

  • Hartt · November 23, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    RBA is sitting with the team in Madrid.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 23, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    Catherine, can you find out more information and details about the two divorces? )

  • Hartt · November 23, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Scoop, I’m the one who posted that! The Romanian fan who runs Match Call Migrants said the BF is 12 years older, and was divorced twice. Apparently he is a wealthy businessman, but I could not get any further info so far.

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