Tsitsipas keeps faith for another major show

 - Alex Sharp

The 22-year-old gave it everything during his first Grand Slam final before falling in five to Djokovic

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland Garros 2021, trophy ceremony© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Clutching the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a second time, something telling for his opponent leapt out from Novak Djokovic’s trophy presentation speech. 

“Knowing him and his team, he's going to come out of this much stronger,” said the now 19-time Grand Slam champion. Stefanos Tsitsipas wholeheartedly agrees.

The Greek held a two-sets-to-love lead on a sun-baked Court Philippe-Chatrier to inch ever so close to glory in his first Grand Slam final.

Unfortunately for Tsitsipas’ legion of fans watching around the globe, the world No.1 Djokovic reeled him in 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday.

The 22-year-old, boosted to a career-high ranking of No.4 next week, is adamant he’ll be back with a vengeance.  

“I believe, yes, I'm able to play for titles like this. Despite my loss today, I have faith in my game. I very much believe I can get to that point very soon. I was close today,” insisted Tsitsipas.

“It's very sad because it was a good opportunity. I was playing good. I was feeling good. Yeah, I lost an opportunity to do something better today.

“But I think with the same attitude and if I don't downgrade myself, I see no reason for me not to be holding that trophy one day.”

For two sets Tsitsipas dictated, eroding Djokovic’s usually devastating return, pinging glorious backhands down the line. His net play and anticipation derailed a lethargic Djokovic.

It was a combination of everything that makes the Greek a major contender for years to come.

Somehow the world No.1 regrouped and pegged back Tsitsipas. It was a herculean effort, but experience entrenched in a 29th major final, Djokovic just about shut the door.

“I don't know, he left the court after two sets to love down, I don't know what happened there, but he came back to me like a different player suddenly. I have no idea. He played really well. He gave me no space,” said Tsitsipas, lamenting the challenge of facing the Serbian over five sets.

“It’s different. It's all about endurance, if you can keep your level there for longer periods of time, then of course that's what is needed in a Grand Slam. I played two good sets. I wouldn't call them incredible. I just played really well. It wasn't enough. That's a Grand Slam for you. It's the way it is.”

Tsitsipas has very little time to toast a memorable fortnight in Paris, as he heads off to Halle, Germany, to ignite his grass court campaign on Tuesday.

“I don't think I have regrets. Could have easily cried, but I see no reason for me crying because I tried everything. I couldn't come up with anything better,” said the 22-year-old, who lost to Thomas Fabbiano in five sets in Wimbledon 2019's first round.

“I'm looking forward to the grass court season. I see there is opportunities there for me. I like playing on grass. Didn't have the best results few years ago, before COVID, when I last played on grass. I think I have the game to play good on grass, too. I just need to be open-minded and adapt my game to this new exciting surface.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Bjorn Borg, Roland Garros 2021, final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Back to the trophy presentation and Tsitsipas said; “It’s a difficult journey, it takes a lot of work every day… I hope to be back next year to put on a good show again.”

The whole tennis world will welcome another Tsitsipas show at Roland-Garros 2022.