Two years ago, Stefanos Tsitsipas was an alternate in the Next Gen ATP Finals field. Last season, the Greek star triumphed in Milan. And after beating defending champion Alexander Zverev in straight sets on Wednesday, Tsitsipas has guaranteed his spot in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals.
The 21-year-old loves challenges. And although he has already booked a trip to the last four at The O2 in London, Tsitsipas will get a chance to eliminate World No. 1 Rafael Nadal from the competition on Friday. If the Spaniard falls, he will not have a chance to move into the semi-finals.
“I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to try to give my soul, and I think it’s also a very good challenge for me in order to prepare for more difficult matches in the semi-finals and the finals, potentially,” Tsitsipas said. “So this match is going to give me a lot. It’s going to educate me, and I’m going to try to get and absorb as much as I can from that.”
Tsitsipas lost the first seven sets of his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with Nadal, but the Greek earned his first win against the lefty earlier this year in Madrid, triumphing in three sets. Nadal leads their series 4-1.
But the World No. 6 will take plenty of confidence into their matchup. Tsitsipas, in his Nitto ATP Finals debut, is the only player yet to lose a set. He was in devastating for against Zverev, losing only five games and saving the lone break point he faced.
“I believe I had a good performance today, which is very satisfying to know, that [there were] no signs of any nerves [and that I was] feeling pretty good on the court,” Tsitsipas said. “It was a good performance. It’s really good to know that I’ll be playing in the semi-finals, but I’ve got to concentrate, keep going the way I have been doing things the past couple of days.”
Tsitsipas has not shied away from clashes with the best players in the world. With his victory against the German, Tsitsipas is now 7-8 this year against Top 10 opposition.
“I always find an extra motivation, an extra reason to play well against the top guys. I consider Sascha also being of this part of this elite group,” Tsitsipas said. “He has done very well over the years. He has, in a way, inspired me to step it up and be part of the Top 10. So in a way I actually owe him a lot. He plays good tennis. Also playing Rafa, Roger, Novak, Andy — I haven’t played Andy, but I think there is plenty to learn from them.
“You have been watching them on TV. You have always wanted to be part of that. So for you, when you step out on the court… it’s a visual. When you see something that you have been dreaming of, I think there is always a spark, kind of an extra reason to play.”
The Zverev win was not the only big one for Tsitsipas, though. The three-time ATP Tour champion arrived in London having not beaten Daniil Medvedev in five tries. But he defeated the Russian for the first time on Monday to get his week started on a high note.
“It’s very fulfilling and satisfying. It’s a big relief when you go through so much pressure and so much will and trying to put yourself into a nirvanic concentration mode. It’s not as easy as people think it is,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s something that fulfills you when you are able to beat players like this and give your best, give your all. These wins mean more than others, and it’s a good thing to have in your portfolio.”
Tsitsipas wouldn’t mind adding a win against Nadal to his Nitto ATP Finals resume either.