Tsitsipas 'bringing the fire' for title tilt in Paris

 - Dan Imhoff

Greek to channel heartache of first major final for bigger and better in 2022

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland Garros 2022, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Scars tend to run deep when a string of near misses mounts, but Stefanos Tsitsipas is pleased to report no lingering doubts upon his return to Roland-Garros. 

While much of the fuss has centred on Spain’s next prolific match-winning teen, the reigning champion’s return to form, or a 13-time winner’s chances, the fourth seed’s score cards leading in are impressive in their own right.

The 23-year-old has fallen in five sets in each of the past three years, to former champion Stan Wawrinka in 2019 and to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals two years ago.

Despite the agony of having let a two-set lead slip his grasp for the chance to become the first Greek Grand Slam champion at Djokovic’s expense in last year’s final, Tsitsipas knew it was a giant stride closer to the ultimate prize.

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“I had my first practice session [on Court Philippe-Chatrier] after that final a few days ago. Nothing went through my mind, no flashback of that match, which is a good thing, I'm starting fresh,” Tsitsipas said.

“Obviously it's a shame, losing a final, being two sets to love up, never really has happened before.”

Room for improvement

Tsitsipas had taken down his Australian Open tormentor, Daniil Medvedev, and displayed nerves of steel to deny Alexander Zverev in succession to reach last year’s title match against Djokovic.

Once the dust had settled, he accepted that he had stretched a big-stage warrior the distance only to fall short.

“He played great, he played better than me. He deserved to win that final, especially after that two-sets-to-love lead for me,” Tstisipas said.

“So it's simple, I just need to get better. I just need to have a longer duration of how the way I played in these first two sets and be up there, bringing the fire after every single shot.”

Finding balance

The Greek has already found his spark through much of the clay-court swing, becoming just the sixth player to defend his Monte-Carlo Masters crown, before a quarter-final defeat to Carlos Alcaraz in Barcelona, a semi-final loss to Zverev in Madrid and a runner-up showing to Djokovic in Rome.

“I have shown good tennis here. I have shown good tennis in the last couple of tournaments,” he said.

“I didn't really show my best tennis in the final a few days ago… When you're overconfident, that can turn against you. When you're not confident, it can also turn against you.

“So looking for that sweet balance is the key for me. It comes with my daily routines. It comes with the feedback that I receive and analysis that I do and the implementation of it on the court in practice, and that's where I know my current state, which right now is at a good level.”

Three years Tsitsipas’ junior, Italian Lorenzo Musetti poses a perilous first outing for the fourth seed.

Twice last year the Greek claimed the honours, both times in three-set semi-finals – in Acapulco and Lyon.

“Lorenzo is a very good player on this surface… I think he's someone that can bring out on the court some good potential and has shown in the past that he's capable of playing good tennis,” Tsitsipas said.

“I know this first-round match is going to really bring the best out of me, at least I will try.”

Content to let the fuss focus on his rivals, Tsitsipas starts afresh in Paris this year. Near misses from each deepening run only add fuel to that competitive fire.