I feel like my game is getting better over time, and I believe I’m really close on being crowned a grand slam champion. I know these are strong words that I say, but I do feel like I belong to be there. Stephanos Tsitsipas
Tsitsipas wins the ATP Finals
By Roger Childs
The London tournament marks the climax to the men’s tennis year. The Association of Tennis Professionals Finals doesn’t rank with the four grand slams, but in some ways it is tougher. To win you must play five games and all your opponents are ranked in the top eight.
Tsitsipas was ranked sixth and was taking part for the first time. He is one of a group of players in their early twenties who are challenging the three tennis legends – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Others in the chasing pack are
- Danill Medvedev who beat Zverev in the Shanghai Open final.
- Canadian Denis Shapovalov who was the beaten finalist in the recent indoor Paris tournament.
- Dominic Thiem the Austrian who won five tournaments in 2019.
- German Alexander Zverev who is currently ranked seventh.
- Italian Matteo Berrettini who made the Shanghai semi finals.
Nadal and Djokovic didn’t make the semi finals in the ATP climax, and six times winner Federer was put out by Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4 in his semi. A commentator remarked that playing the Greek, who is 17 years his junior, is the closest Federer will get to playing himself!
The complete player
Stephanos Tsitsipas has modelled his game on the Swiss maestro and they way he plays is very similar –
- being right handed with a single handed backhand which produces frequent winners
- having a strong serve and excellent volleying skills
- being always prepared to come to the net if the opportunity arises
- demonstrating powerful ground strokes which are often tightly angled
- having excellent retrieval skills and a reliable overhead.
In his semi final against Federer, Tsitsipas was the more reliable – a mark of maturity. The Swiss played brilliantly at times especially when he unleashed many wonderful backhand winners. But his forehands often let him down and, occasionally, his normally impeccable smashing.
Meanwhile in the second semi-final Dominic Thiem easily beat last year’s tournament winner German Alexander Zverev.
A final worthy of the occasion
The packed house in the wonderful O2 stadium, was treated to tennis of the highest quality. There were plenty of powerful rallies with tightly angled ground strokes, neatly placed volleys and superb retrievals. Although both had the chance to get a break in the first set, they held their nerve and their serves through to the inevitable tie-break. Thiem got the jump on his rival by breaking his very first serve and took the set 7-6.
However, Tsitsipas was quickly out of the blocks in set two and unexpectedly broke the Austrian’s first two service games to race out to a 4-0 lead. He easily won his own serves and took the set 6-2.
He broke Thiem’s serve again in the second game and it looked as if he would cruise to victory. But the Austrian broke Tsitsipas’s serve in the sixth game and it was back to 3-3. The momentum had shifted and it looked as if Thiem might be back to win. However Tsitsipas rallied and served well to take the deciding set to a tie-break. The crowd was delighted and really didn’t want this top quality match to end.
This time the Greek took Thiem’s first two serves and was out to 4-1. Although the Austrian fought back to 4-4, Tsitsipas held his nerve and won the last three points and the championship.
So the season ends with a new ATP Finals champion – a 21 year old Greek who is now a polished player ready to take a 2020 grand slam. Although the three legends retain the top rankings overall and have won the last twelve grand slams, next year may be time when the young bloods come through to take one or more of the big four tournaments.