Tsitsipas readies for Alcaraz clash: ‘It’s game on’

Familiar foes have set up a must-see quarter-final

 - Nick McCarvel

Stefanos Tsitsipas was happy to say what was on everyone else’s minds: “[It’s] the clash we've been all waiting for.”

He was referring, of course, to his quarter-final with world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, with the winner possibly to meet Novak Djokovic for a spot in the final.

“I think everyone was expecting it, weren't they?” Tsitsipas told reporters at Roland-Garros. “And it's here. It's game on.”

The Greek No.5 seed was on his game Sunday evening, beating qualifier Sebastian Ofner in a straightforward straight-setter after being broken in the opening game. He never looked in trouble after. 

The two-time major finalist has taken a page from the book of Stan Wawrinka, winner here in 2015: he’s pointed to his head after each of his match wins this Roland-Garros. It’s become about the head game for Stef.

“Mental strength,” he said simply on court to Alex Corretja. “Stan the Man. Let’s give credit where it’s due.”

‘I need to play good tennis’

Alcaraz has owned his head-to-head against Tsitsipas, starting with what was the young Spaniard's breakout win in the third round of the US Open in 2021, Alcaraz winning in a fifth-set tiebreak.

He’s 4-0 against Tsitsipas overall, including a straight-sets win in the Barcelona final earlier this clay season.

“I need to play good tennis,” Tsitsipas said. “Carlos is someone that is not going to give you gaps where his attention is not there. He's very hyper, very energetic. He adds a lot of that into the rallies.”

He continued: “Right now he's one of the biggest obstacles and challenges for any player to compete against. It pushes us all to be better. Rivalries like this, they are the toughest thing you can get in our sport. “

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland-Garros 2023, Simple Messieurs, 1/8 de Finale©Cedric Lecocq / FFT

Naps, music and disconnecting

Tsitsipas has shown fans on social media plenty of off-court interests over the years, from his photography to vlogging to a penchant for philosophy.

He says it’s a key tool for his success – especially as he continues to chase a maiden major trophy.

“It's important to disconnect when you're off the court,” he said. “There is a lot of tennis involved daily. We practise every day of a Grand Slam... a lot of practice and fitness, every day. It's important to find other things to do during the tennis to keep your mind sharp. I feel like Paris is a great place to do that."

Tsitsipas was short on details on what, exactly, that has entailed this fortnight, but he said he’s been “listening to music a lot lately.”

And – being the last match on Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Sunday evening – he did something he rarely does beforehand: napped.

“I took my first nap before the match in a very, very, very long time,” he said. “I don't remember myself taking naps before matches... I don't know if it helped me or not, but I felt good out there.”

“It's just that I feel like if you sleep for one or two hours, that could be a problem,” he added. “I don't want to be sluggish and lousy when I enter the court. That's something that I try and avoid.”