August 13, 2018
Stefanos Tsitsipas may have been edged out by Rafael Nadal in Toronto, but he also won the right to be called the exciting future of tennis.
And why shouldn’t the 20-year-old Greek with the flowing locks and movie-star looks not light up Wimbledon 2019?
Bjorn Borg did it back in the 1970s. He had screaming admirers following his every move like the superstar he was.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has similar potential. Except that you could argue he has a more flamboyant all-round game than Borg did.
Can anyone doubt the quality of this startling new kid on the block?
He just beat both Wimbledon 2018 finalists – the great Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson – in Canada.
Throw in the other young star of tennis – Alexander Zverev – and the impressive Dominic Thiem too.
Stefanos Tsitsipas collected more scalps than any breakthrough player could have dreamed of facing, never mind beating.
After the adoring crowd at the Toronto final sang him happy birthday, Stefanos said: ‘Thank you guys I’ve had the week of my life and the support I’ve had is incredible.
‘I have never had such a warm welcome and so much support.’
He had better get used to that because the support is only going to grow as he cements his superstar status.
And here’s the thing. He is a nice guy too. As you might expect of a young man who reassessed his life after nearly drowning in the sea.
A man who also went off to the British Virgin Islands on a voyage of self-discovery to ensure that tennis was what he wanted to do with his life.
It is. But this new hero looks set to stay grounded as the clamour for his attention grows.
In the very next sentence he thanked the ball kids. He wasn’t just thinking of his own achievements as he stepped into the limelight.
Could he have made the victory speech? Yes. There was a moment when he looked capable of downing a nervous Nadal too.
Having been blown away 2-6 in the first, Stefanos had set point in the second as Rafa wobbled at 5-6 down.
Tsitsipas had returned ferociously, right at the Spaniard’s body, and Nadal had hit long in self-protection.
Only a tentative effort that bounced on top of the net and rolled over to safety got Rafa out of jail. He went on to win the breaker 7-4 to close out the match.
But strangely this wasn’t about the winner and Nadal admitted: ‘Stefanos, you have an amazing future.’
Tsitsipas had already unleashed the film-star smile as he talked about how much he had enjoyed down-town Toronto during the tournament.
Here is a man who loves life in general, not just the tennis bubble. He concluded: ‘Thank you so much for the vibe and everything. Montreal next year isn’t it? I’ll miss you guys.’
And it’s Wimbledon 2019 next year too. What might Tsitsipas have achieved by the time we welcome him to the All England Club?
Who knows in terms of silverware? But it is a safe bet that Tsitsipas will already have become famous, a true star of our sport. Serious box office indeed.
The future really has arrived now, even as the likes of Nadal, Djokovic and the magnificent Roger Federer continue to hold sway at the Slams.
That future is exciting, charismatic and has a new name – Stefanos Tsitsipas.