Melbourne finalist who was ‘a couple of breaths from dying’
Stefanos Tsitsipas will develop into Greece’s first Grand Slam champion and a world primary if he wins the Australian Open ultimate on Sunday — he may have his father to thank if he does.
There will not be many athletes whose careers and outlooks have been solid by near-death experiences, however the 24-year-old world quantity 4 is an exception.
In 2015, whereas participating in a third-tier occasion in Crete, a teenage Tsitsipas and a good friend went swimming and nearly fatally misjudged the power of the currents.
The 2 boys have been simply moments from being swept away till Tsitsipas’s father Apostolos, who can also be his coach, dived in to haul them to security.
“We could not breathe, I felt terrible to be contained in the water and was terrified. I did not understand how all this was going to finish,” Tsitsipas as soon as recalled.
“My father noticed us from afar and he jumped in, began swimming in direction of us and pushed us in direction of the seaside. I used to be just some breaths away from dying.
“If we have been purported to die and lose our lives that day, we must do it collectively. My father was a hero.
“That was the day I noticed life with a unique perspective. I bear in mind after that how a lot psychologically it modified me.”
Tsitsipas shares the identical birthday as Pete Sampras — August 12 — and is studious, contemplative.
He speaks Greek, English and Russian, and has dabbled in Spanish and Chinese language.
– Sporting household –
Sport is in his genes. Life-saving Apostolos is his coach whereas mom Julia Salnikova is an ex-tennis professional.
His grandfather, Sergei Salnikov, was a 1956 Olympic gold medallist in soccer taking part in for the Soviet Union.
Since turning professional in 2016, Tsitsipas’s profession has been on a steadily upward curve.
He was ranked 210 on this planet in his first season however was inside the highest 100 by the tip of 2017 and as excessive as 5 in 2018, the primary Greek to attain such a standing.
By the point he was 21 he had already swept wins over the game’s three largest beasts — Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Tsitsipas was the primary Greek man to win a tour title and has claimed 9 in whole, however a Grand Slam crown has remained elusive.
He hopes that may change when he faces Djokovic in Sunday’s Australian Open ultimate. Victory would additionally make him world primary for the primary time.
His solely earlier main ultimate was in 2021 when he got here agonisingly near the French Open crown, racing right into a two-set lead within the ultimate over Djokovic earlier than the Serb mounted an epic comeback to say victory.
His largest win to this point got here whereas he was nonetheless 21. He captured the 2019 season-ending ATP Finals title, changing into the youngest champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001.
– ‘Very sensible’ –
Blond-haired and standing 6ft 4ins (1.93m) tall, Tsitsipas has lengthy been touted as a doable inheritor to Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.
He comes throughout as certainly one of tennis’s extra rounded gamers, however he might be feisty too.
He has developed an intriguing rivalry with Daniil Medvedev, one other arising quick behind the “Massive Three”.
The Russian as soon as described Tsitsipas’s sport as “boring”.
Tsitsipas branded Medvedev an “(expletive) Russian” in a fiery encounter in Miami.
His Melbourne opponent Djokovic, no stranger to controversy himself, is a fan.
“He’s a tough employee, devoted, good man,” the Serb as soon as stated.
“He is very sensible and sensible. I like the truth that he’s greater than only a tennis participant and he is at all times seeking to be taught from expertise and to grasp one thing new about himself.
“That is the trait of a champion, of somebody who has nice potential to be primary on this planet and win Slams and be an amazing ambassador for the game.”